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The decline in the age at debut and the increase in the proportion of youth who have had sexual intercourse generated considerable research interest in the social and demographic characteristics associated with sexual debut; for example, there is substantial variation in the timing of debut between males and females, by ethnic or racial group, and by social class.

This study provides insight into the basic patterns and social and demographic correlates of sexual debut among Chinese youth.

International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2012, 38(4):196–204, doi: 10.1363/3819612 Little is known about social variations in the timing of sexual debut in China.

In many Western societies, the age at sexual debut began to decline during the 1970s with the relaxation of attitudes about premarital sex.

The mean age at sexual debut was 22.8 years (22.5 years for men and 23.1 years for women).

Sexual debut before age 18 was rare for both genders, and ages 21–24 appear to be the normative range for sexual debut.

Life table analysis found that debut was earlier for males than for females, for those living in a rural area than for those in urban areas, and for those living in western China than for those in other regions.

In multivariate hazard regression analysis, males had a 30% greater risk of experiencing sexual debut within each year of age than did females.

The age at sexual debut is declining in China, but little is known about the relationship between the social and demographic characteristics of Chinese youth and the timing of debut.

Data were drawn from the 2009 National Youth Reproductive Health Survey, which collected background information and age at sexual debut from 22,300 unmarried youth aged 15–24.


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