Sexual Development in Adolescence: An Examination of Genetic and Environmental Influences

D. Angus Clark, C. Emily Durbin, Mary M. Heitzeg, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue, Brian M. Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Sexual development entails many experiences and is a major feature of adolescence. Most relevant behavioral genetic studies, however, focus primarily on sexual behaviors associated with health risks. We took a more normative, developmental perspective by examining genetic and environmental influences on five sexual behaviors ranging from dating to pregnancy in middle (Mage = 14.90 years) and late adolescence (Mage = 17.85 years) in a sample of twins (N = 3,762). Overall, behaviors that are more common and socially sanctioned (e.g., dating) were more heritable than behaviors that are less common and socially acceptable (e.g., sexual intercourse). That the etiology of different sexual behaviors is tied to their normativeness highlights the importance of considering the broader developmental context when studying sexual development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-520
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Research on Adolescence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by United States Public Health Service grants R01 AA09367 (McGue), R01 AA024433 (Hicks), and T32 AA007477 (F. Blow) from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and R37 DA005147 (Iacono) and R01 DA013240 (Iacono) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for Research on Adolescence


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