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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. In South Africa, it is illegal for adolescents under age 16 years to engage in any sexual behaviour whether kissing, petting, or penetrative sex, regardless of consent. This cross-sectional study investigated the extent to which young adolescents engage in various sexual behaviours and the associations between dating status and sexual behaviours. Lower hierarchy sexual behaviours, such as kissing Currently dating girls and boys were more likely to engage in sexual behaviours including several risk behaviours in comparison to their currently non-dating counterparts.

These risk behaviours included penetrative sex Although the currently dating group of young adolescents appear to be a precocious group in terms of risk behaviour relative to the currently non-dating group, teenagers in both groups had experience in the full range of sexual behaviours. Many young adolescents are engaging in a variety of sexual behaviours ranging from kissing and touching to intercourse. Of particular concern are those engaging in risky sexual behaviour.

These findings indicate that adolescents need to be prepared for sexual negotiation and decision-making from an early age through comprehensive and accessible education and health services; sections of current legislation may be a barrier to adopting such policies and practices. During adolescence, youth usually begin to explore their sexuality [ 1 - 5 ]. Yet, in South Africa any sexual behaviour including kissing, petting, and penetrative intercourse between young adolescents under 16 years of age , regardless of consent, is illegal the Criminal Law [Sexual Offences and Related Matters] Amendment Act No.

In the case of similar age adolescents, both partners are prosecutable under this law whereas in an age discordant couple, where one partner is two or more years older than the other, a statutory offense applies only charging the older partner with a crime. Such laws are incongruent with common sexual practice among South African adolescents [ 1 , 2 ].

This law may negatively impact healthcare and education services for young adolescents by forcing a mandatory reporting and abstinence-only approach. Such an approach is not only in contravention of provisions in other South African legislation [ 7 ], but it may compromise comprehensive education and reproductive health services that promote and support a spectrum of healthy sexual decision-making.

Given the rapid and ificant developmental changes during this period it is important to understand patterns of behaviour at different stages of adolescence. In sub Saharan Africa, young adolescent girls have higher rates of HIV prevalence than adolescent boys [ 18 - 20 ]. A national household survey found that among youth between the ages of 15 and 24 years, Much of the adolescent sexual behaviour prevalence data focuses on sexual intercourse, yet adolescent sexual exploration and expression may span a variety of behaviours such as hand holding, hugging, kissing, petting or masturbation, oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex [ 5 , 22 ].

study indicate that a ificant proportion of South African youth experience sexual debut between the ages of 14 and 17 years [ 2 , 20 , 24 - 26 ]. A Cape Town school-based study reported that A school-based study with young teenagers age 13 years in South Africa and Tanzania who had not yet had sexual intercourse found that approximately one in five teens experienced sexual debut during the 15 months of the study [ 8 ]. These studies indicate that a ificant proportion of South African youth are sexually active before the legal age of consent.

Sexuality is expressed and experienced in various ways in different relationship contexts [ 5 , 16 , 27 ]. Although it is assumed that dating relationships are the primary venue for sexual exploration [ 28 , 29 ], sexual exploration may also occur individually e. Interviews with Grade 8 and 11 adolescents in Cape Town found that dating and sex are not entirely co-occurring [ 30 ]. All sexual activity between young teenagers is illegal and in some controversial cases teenagers have been charged within the terms of this legislation. Little is known about the prevalence of non-intercourse sexual behaviours among young South African adolescents nor the circumstances in which these teenagers experience sex such as the relationship with the sex partner, contraceptive use, consent, co-occurring substance use, and the frequency of sex which would provide insight into the levels of risky sexual contact.

The aims of this paper are to describe a the kinds of sexual activity young under age 16 , urban South African adolescents are engaging in, including risky sexual behaviours; b the connections between dating and sexual activity in this age group; and c the factors associated with early penetrative sex. The implications of these data for risk prevention, especially in light of legal concerns, will be discussed. The reported in this paper are a secondary analysis of baseline data collected for the pilot evaluation of a school-based intimate partner violence prevention intervention.

Specifically, this analysis is based on out of cases of students under the age of 16 years. The recruitment and data collection method for the pilot study are briefly described. Research participants were recruited from two randomly selected Grade 8 classes in each of nine public schools in the Cape Town area. Schools were purposively selected to be demographically representative of the population in Cape Town, and included schools from middle class, lower income predominantly Coloured and lower income predominantly Black African areas.

Participants completed surveys individually in classroom settings in — Six classes from three schools completed the survey using paper and pencil with a fieldworker reading the questions and answer options to participants during the first phase of the pilot study. The remaining twelve classes from six schools used audio-enhanced personal digital assistants A-PDAs during the second phase of the pilot study. Participants could choose to complete the survey in Afrikaans, English or Xhosa and those who used A-PDAs were able to switch languages throughout the survey.

Informational material and consent forms were sent to parents via their eligible Grade 8 student; school staff facilitated this process as part of their routine communications with students and parents. Participation was voluntary and anonymity was guaranteed. Twelve students declined to participate; to minimize the possibility of coercion, students were not required to provide a reason for this choice. All participants were given a leaflet of mental health and intimate partner violence IPV related help resources; researchers were available to talk to participants distressed by the survey or wanting to seek help for IPV.

Measures included in this survey were chosen from surveys ly used with South African adolescents in earlier studies [ 31 - 33 ]. Socio-demographic information ly found to be related to sexual behaviour among adolescents included age computed from the month and year of birth reported by participants , race, sex, and socioeconomic status [ 8 , 34 ].

Current dating was defined as participants who reported having at least one boyfriend or girlfriend at the time of the survey. of sexual partners vaginal or anal penetrative sex in the past three months was similarly assessed. Sexual behaviour was measured by a series of dichotomous items asking whether or not the participant had engaged in the behaviour in the past three months and whether they had ever engaged in the behaviour. Dichotomous items for penetrative sex in the past three months and ever were calculated using the oral, vaginal, and anal sex items.

For descriptions of substance use during sex and the last sexual encounter, only data from sexually active participants defined as those who had experienced penetrative sex ever were considered valid and thus extracted and analysed. Participants were asked a series of questions about how often, in the past three months, they or their sex partner had used alcohol, marijuana, or methamphetamine when they had sex. Descriptive items for the last sexual encounter any one or combination of penetrative sexual acts depending on the most recent experience of the participant included the relationship with the sex partner e.

Sex partner information for each type of sexual behaviour was not collected; instead sex partner here would include someone with whom the participant has had some form of penetrative sex. At the end of every survey, participants were asked multiple choice questions about how well they understood the survey items four options ranging from very easy to understand to very difficult to understand and how honest they were in answering the questions four options ranging from completely honest to not honest at all.

There were no ificant differences in levels of reporting on dating, sexual behaviour, or substance use between these two methods of data collection. Analyses comparing currently dating to currently non-dating girls, and currently dating to currently non-dating boys were performed. Statistical tests were adjusted for the clustered by school sampling strategy using the complex samples function in SPSS; clusters were equally weighted because the sample is representative of public schools in Cape Town.

Logistic regression models were used to identify factors associated with lifetime experience of any penetrative sex. The sample included Most Participants ranged in age from 12 to 15 years old. Among the girls, Among the boys, 90 The sociodemographic characteristics and risk behaviour of the sample are presented in Table 1 stratified by sex and dating status. The of dating and sex partners of participants are shown in Table 2. Over half Currently dating girls reported a ificantly higher of lifetime dating partners; most Almost one quarter of currently dating girls Among all boys, Currently dating boys reported ificantly more lifetime dating partners, the majority Almost one third of the currently dating group Currently dating boys who were sexually experienced reported ificantly more sex partners in the past three months than boys who had ever had sex but were not currently dating.

Comparisons between dating and non-dating groups of self-reported sexual behaviours and overall descriptive data of sexual behaviour stratified by sex are presented in Table 3. It should be noted that dating and sexual behaviour are not necessarily entirely co-occurring; that is, adolescents may engage in a variety of sexual behaviour with partners who they may or may not be dating at the time. Kissing was a common experience among the young adolescent girls in this sample. Further, several of these girls have engaged in some or all of the range of sexual behaviours with more girls experienced in light and heavy petting than penetrative, primarily vaginal, sex.

Overall, 6. A greater proportion of dating girls in comparison to non-dating girls reported engaging in all sexual behaviours recently and in their lifetime with the exception of heavy petting and anal sex in the past three months for which there were no statistically ificant differences. Of those who had sex in the past three months, four Overall among boys, kissing was relatively common. Slightly more boys reported having had sex than having engaged in heavy petting. More dating boys had engaged in all sexual behaviours during the past 3 months and ever in their lifetime in comparison to non-dating boys with the exception of oral sex in the past three months for which there was no statistically ificant difference.

Almost one half Descriptive information about the last sex encounter is presented in Table 4 stratified by sex; only participants who had ever had penetrative sex were included in this analysis. Girls largely reported that their last sex partner was a boyfriend or another partner

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