Changes in the timing of sexual initiation among young Muslim and Christian women in Nigeria

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Author(s): Agha S

Year: 2009

Arch Sex Behav 2009. 38(6): 899-908.
Sexual initiation during adolescence has important demographic and health consequences for a population, yet no systematic analysis of changes in the timing of sexual initiation has been conducted in Nigeria. Two rounds of national surveys conducted in 1990 and 2003 were used to examine changes in the timing of sexual initiation among female adolescents in Nigeria. Multivariate survival analysis using Cox proportional hazards models was used to assess changes in the risk of sexual initiation and to identify the correlates of first sex. Contrary to what has been reported in severalNigerian studies, therewas no decline in age at first sex among Christian adolescents. Age at first sex did not change significantly forChristianadolescents, althoughpremarital sex appears to have increased–primarily due to an increase in the age at marriage. Age at first sex did increase among Muslim women. Premarital sex remained low amongMuslimwomen. Anumberof socioeconomicvariableswere associatedwiththe timing of sexual initiation.Weeklyexposure tothemassmedia was associated with earlier sexual initiation. The degree to which an environment was liberal or restrictive was a key determinant of the timing of sexual initiation in Nigeria. The findings also illustrate the important role of socioeconomic factors indeterminingthe timingof sexual initiationinNigeria. As secondary education increases in Northern Nigeria, additional increases in the age at sexual debut are likely among Muslimwomen.The study raises concerns about the influence of the mass media on the timing of first sex in Nigeria. The evidence of an absence of changes in the timing of sexual initiation among Christian women in more than a decade implies that programs which aimto delay the timing of sexual initiation in Southern Nigeriamay have limited success.With age at marriage already high among Christian women, programs that focus on abstinence until marriage may also be pursuing an approach with limited chances of success.

Filed under: Nigeria