This paper estimates the relation between women’s experience of violence and the age of menarche, first sexual intercourse, and first birth.
The data are from the Younger Cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, which includes 9,683 women, aged between 22 and 27 years in 2000, who responded to surveys in both 1996 and 2000.
In 1996, 9% of women reported current or previous partner violence and a further 5% reported it in 2000. Similarly, 11% and 8% reported recent nonpartner violence. Fifteen percent of the women reported first intercourse at <16 years. Early first intercourse was strongly associated with partner violence whereas young age at menarche and teenage birth were only associated with partner violence reported when women were <24 years old. Reported partner and recent nonpartner violence, when prevalent in 1996 or when occurring between 1996 and 2000, were consistently associated with early age at first intercourse; the earlier that age, the stronger the association. Women reporting intercourse before 14 years were the most likely to report partner violence, with odds ratios between 7 and 14 when compared with first intercourse reported by young women ≥17 years.
These data clearly demonstrate a nexus between early intercourse and reported violence and add to the evidence of risks associated with early sexual initiation. These findings substantiate the need to prevent or reduce rates of early sexual abuse, to protect very young women from sexual exposure and to assist and support young women in their sexual decision making. We need to identify young women who have already experienced abuse or violence and undertake therapeutic interventions to prevent further victimization.
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Lyndsey Watson, MSc, is a Senior Research Fellow at Mother and Child Health Research at La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia. She is a biostatistician and her current interests are in women’s health and preterm birth.
Angela Taft, MPH, PhD, is also a Senior Research Fellow at Mother and Child Health Research. She is a social scientist and her predominant research interest is on the mental and physical health impact of, and interventions to reduce, violence against women and children.
Christina Lee, PhD, is Professor of Health Psychology and Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, Australia. From 2000 until 2005 she was Manager and (later) Coordinator of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Her research interests are in the women’s life and reproductive choices, and their mental health.
Published online: August 20, 2007
Accepted: June 1, 2007
Received: August 15, 2006
© 2007 Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.