Influence of Peers on young Adolescent Females' Romantic Decisions

Deborah Wisnieski, Renee E Sieving, Ann E Garwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Initiation of sexual intercourse during early adolescence is a known risk factor for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Purpose: To examine young women's stories describing peer influences on their romantic and sexual decisions and behavior during early adolescence. Methods: Semistructured ethnographic interviews were conducted with 28 African American, American Indian, Euro-American, and Latina females ages 19 to 29 years. Results: Four common themes (patterns) emerged. First, most participants belonged to a same-sex peer group in early adolescence, many participated in mixed sex groups, and a small number had no peer group. Second, romantic relationships were discussed with peers more than with adults. Third, early adolescent romantic behavior commonly led to early initiation of sexual intercourse with negative emotional impacts. Fourth, participants cautioned teens about romantic involvement during early adolescence. Discussion: The findings suggest that mixedsex peer group affiliation was associated with delayed dating. Older peers and social isolation were associated with riskier sexual behaviors. Early sexual initiation frequently led to negative experiences. Translation to Health Education Practice: Health educators and health care providers are encouraged to assess young adolescents' peer involvement, encourage prosocial mixed-sex peer activities, and provide guidance to parents about early adolescent development and the importance of monitoring their young adolescent children's activities to avoid potentially dangerous sexual situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-40
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2 2013

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