Assessing the Benefits of Delayed Sexual Activity: A Synthesis of the Literature
For several decades, the federal government has supported programs that encourage adolescents to wait to have sex. This support stems in part from the evidence and expectations that delaying sexual activity can have important benefits for adolescents and society as a whole. The most direct of these benefits are reductions in teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, research has also found benefits of delayed sexual activity extending beyond these physical outcomes, particularly for girls.
This report synthesizes the current research literature on the benefits of delayed sexual activity. Although we include research on teen pregnancy and STIs, a main purpose of the synthesis is to assess the evidence for potential benefits extending beyond these physical outcomes. We also discuss the methodological approaches researchers have developed to study the benefits of delayed sexual activity for these outcomes. The synthesis was part of a broader economic analysis that Mathematica is conducting under contract for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).