Early sexual engagement has been associated with an increased risk of unintended teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV. A new study has revealed that teenagers who were prenatally cocaine exposed (PCE) were 2.2 times more likely to engage in sexual intercourse before 15 years of age than those who were not.
Lead researcher Meeyoung O. Min from Case Western Reserve University, US, said, “Yet how PCE affects early sexual behavior may differ by gender.” The research team studied mothers, some who had used cocaine while pregnant and others who did not, since 1994 to understand how the drug affected their children’s cognitive and social development. The new study focused on sexual activities of 354 adolescents, 180 who were prenatally exposed to cocaine and 174 who were not.
Researchers tested the children at 6, 12 and 18 months, and at 2, 4, 6, 9, 12 and 15 years. Compared to 23% of non-cocaine exposed (NCE) teenagers, 29% of prenatally cocaine exposed (PCE) teenagers living in foster/adoptive care and 42% of PCE teenagers living with their birth mothers reported having sexual intercourse before 15 years.
PCE teenage girls who reported having behavior problems during their preteen years were more likely to have early sexual intercourse. As many as 64 youth (37 PCE and 27 NCE) reported having sex as young as 13 years. The study found that greater parental monitoring decreased the likelihood of early sexual intercourse, while exposure to violence increased the risk.