Early Pubertal Timing, Race, and Girls’ Orientation to Sex and Romance in Adolescence

Kimberly A. Daniels, University of Texas at Austin
Shannon E. Cavanagh, University of Texas at Austin

Using the first two waves from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health), we examine early pubertal timing and girls’ orientation toward sex and romance. Pubertal timing, like other life course transitions, redefines roles and brings about new social obligations and expectations. It also marks the moment when the cultural meanings, expectations, and limitations of gender, sexuality, and romance become real for girls and when others perceive girls as sexual actors, laying the foundation for opposite-sex relationships in adolescence and beyond. Thus, we argue, the pubertal transition represents girls’ transition into the romantic market. We examine how early transitions shape parental communication about sex and pregnancy, motivations to engage in sex, and motivations to avoid pregnancy. Preliminary results suggest that early maturing girls receive greater parental communication, are more motivated to engage in sex, and are less motivated to avoid pregnancy. These associations are strongest for White girls.

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Presented in Session 85: The Association Between Body Weight, Pubertal Timing and Adolescent Sexual Behavior