Social Origins and the Sexual Debut of the Italian Youth

Raffaele Guetto, University of Florence
Alessio Lachi , University of Florence
Chiara Burchi, University of Florence
Matteo Santarelli, University of Florence

We focus on the role that the family of origin plays for children’s timing and type of sexual debut. We consider two fundamental dimensions defining social origins: socioeconomic factors such as parental education and social class, and features more directly related to the Second Demographic Transition (SDT), i.e. the presence of a working mother during early adolescence, the experience of parental break-up due to divorce, and the level of parents’ religiosity during childhood. Higher parental socioeconomic status is usually found to be associated with a postponement of children’s sexual debut, but an alternative mechanism is related to possible “emancipating” effects of higher status attainment. The expected effects of SDT-related characteristics seem more straightforward, as children experiencing parental break-up, raised by a working mother and “secular” parents should experience an earlier sexual debut. However, it is not clear whether the effects are driven by the higher monitoring exerted by more religious, intact, male-breadwinner families, or if the explanation should focus (also) on the higher emancipation and cultural openness of “non-traditional” families. The results of event-history models suggest that higher parental education and class are related to an anticipation of children’s sexual debut, whereas the hypothesised effects of SDT-related characteristics are confirmed. To better understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of the family of origin, competing-risks models distinguishing by the type of first sexual intercourse (protected vs. unprotected) are carried out. Results show that higher parental education only increases the hazard of first protected sexual intercourse.

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 Presented in Session 111. Life Course: Transition to Adulthood