AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 22, Supplement 1, pp 57–64 | Cite as

Age at Sexual Initiation and Sexual and Health Risk Behaviors Among Jamaican Adolescents and Young Adults

  • Sharlene Beckford JarrettEmail author
  • Wadiya Udell
  • Sannia Sutherland
  • Willi McFarland
  • Marion Scott
  • Nicola Skyers
Original Paper


Current policies limit access to sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents younger than 16 years in Jamaica. Using data from a national survey, we explored the relationship between age at sexual initiation and subsequent sexual risk behaviors in a random sample of 837 Jamaican adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 years. In the sample overall, 21.0% had not yet had sex. Among the 661 sexually active participants, the mean age at first sex was 14.7 years. High percentages of sexually active youth reported engaging in risk behaviors such as inconsistent condom use (58.8%), multiple sex partners (44.5%), and transactional sex (43.0%). Age of sexual initiation for males was unrelated to subsequent sexual risk behaviors. However, earlier sexual debut for females was associated with their number of partners during the preceding year. Findings underscore the potential benefits of access to sexual and reproductive education and services at earlier ages than current policies allow. Interventions before and during the period of sexual debut may reduce sexual risk for Jamaican adolescents and young adults.


Sexual debut Sexual and reproductive health policy Jamaica Sexual risk behavior Adolescent sexual health 



The 2012 Knowledge, Attitude, Behavior and Practices (KABP) survey was completed with funds received by the Jamaica Ministry of Health from the Global Fund. We thank the Ministry of Health for providing access to data from this study. We would like to thank Maxine Wedderburn and Deborah Bourne of Hope Enterprises Limited for leading the implementation of the KABP. We wish to acknowledge the support from the University of California, San Francisco’s International Traineeships in AIDS Prevention Studies (ITAPS), U.S. NIMH, R25MH064712, and the Starr Foundation Scholarship Fund.


The 2012 KABP survey was supported with funds received by the Jamaica Ministry of Health from The Global Fund.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. 1.
    Crawford TV, McGrowder DA, Crawford A. Access to contraception by minors in Jamaica: a public health concern. North Am J Med Sci. 2009;1(5):247–55.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Longman-Mills S, Carpenter K. Interpersonal competence and sex risk behaviours among Jamaican adolescents. West Indian Med J. 2013;62(5):423–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ishida K, Stupp P, McDonald O. Prevalence and correlates of sexual risk behaviors among Jamaican adolescents. Int Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2011;37(1):6–15.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Serbanescu F, Ruiz A, Suchdev D. National Family Planning Board Statistical Institute of Jamaica; United States Agency for International Development; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Reproductive Health. Reproductive health survey: Jamaica 2008 Final Report. 2010.
  5. 5.
    Bailey Althea. Situational analysis of sexual and reproductive health in Jamaica. Towards policy development. Kingston: Jamaica National Family Planning Board; 2014.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sutherland ME. An intersectional approach for understanding the vulnerabilities of English-speaking heterosexual Caribbean youth to HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections: Prevention and intervention strategies. Health Psychol Open. 2016. Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ministry of Health. Reproductive Health Guidelines for Health Professionals—Providing contraceptives to persons under sixteen years of age. 2004.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ministry of Justice. The Sexual Offences Act. 2009. Accessed May 5, 2017.
  9. 9.
    Ministry of Justice. Child Care and Protection Act. 2004. Accessed May 5, 2017.
  10. 10.
    Baumgartner JN, Waszak Geary C, Tucker H, Wedderburn M. The influence of early sexual debut and sexual violence on adolescent pregnancy: a matched case-control study in Jamaica. Int Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2009;35(1):21–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sandfort TGM, Orr M, Hirsch JS, Santelli J. Long-term health correlates of timing of sexual debut: results from a national US study. Am J Public Health. 2008;98(1):155–61.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Zuma K, Setswe G, Ketye T, Mzolo T, Rehle T, Mbelle N. Age at sexual debut: a determinant of multiple partnership among South African youth. Afr J Reprod Health. 2010;14(2):47–54.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Menna T, Ali A, Worku A. Effects of peer education intervention on HIV/AIDS related sexual behaviors of secondary school students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: a quasi-experimental study. Reprod Health. 2015;12:84.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    National Family Planning Board. Jamaica National Integrated Strategic Plan for Sexual and Reproductive Health & HIV 2014–2019. 2014. Accessed June 23, 2017.
  15. 15.
    Hope Caribbean Co. Ltd. 2012 HIV/AIDS Knowledge, Attitudes, Behavior and Practices Survey, Jamaica. 2012. Accessed February 5, 2017.
  16. 16.
    Kish L. A procedure for objective respondent selection within the household. J Am Stat Assoc. 1949;44(247):380–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    UNAIDS. Guidelines on construction of core indicators: 2010 Reporting. 2009.…/files/jc1676_core_indicators_2009_en.pdf. Accessed June 22, 2017.
  18. 18.
    Smith D, Roofe M, Ehiri J, Campbell-Forrester S, Jolly C, Jolly P. Sociocultural contexts of adolescent sexual behavior in rural Hanover, Jamaica. J Adolesc Health Off Publ Soc Adolesc Med. 2003;33(1):41–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Meshke LL, Zweig JM, Barber BL, Eccles JS. Demographic, biological, psychological, and social predictors of the timing of first intercourse. J Res Adolesc. 2000;10:315–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lindberg LD, Maddow-Zimet I. Consequences of sex education on teen and young adult sexual behaviors and outcomes. J Adolesc Health Off Publ Soc Adolesc Med. 2012;51(4):332–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kirby DB, Laris BA, Rolleri LA. Sex and HIV education programs: their impact on sexual behaviors of young people throughout the world. J Adolesc Health Off Publ Soc Adolesc Med. 2007;40(3):206–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Eggleton E, Jackson J, Hardee K. Sexual attitudes and behaviour among young adolescents in Jamaica. Int Fam Plan Perspect. 1999;25(2):78–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    DiClemente RJ, Sales JM, Danner F, Crosby RA. Association between sexually transmitted diseases and young adults’ self-reported abstinence. Pediatrics. 2011;127(2):208–13.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Health SciencesUniversity of California San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.School of Interdisciplinary Arts & SciencesUniversity of WashingtonBothellUSA
  3. 3.Caribbean Vulnerable Communities CoalitionKingstonJamaica
  4. 4.Department of Public HealthSan FranciscoUSA
  5. 5.HIV/STI/Tb UnitHealth Promotion and Protection Branch, Ministry of HealthKingstonJamaica

Personalised recommendations