Adolescents that had been exposed to adult-themed TV shows between the ages of 6 and 8 are more likely to make their sexual debuts before the age of 14, according to Hernan Delgado and colleagues from Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Delgado’s team tracked TV and movie exposure in 754 boys and girls who were younger than age 12 using diaries and computer-based self-interviews, and then 5 years later, asked participants about the age at which they first had sexual intercourse.
Among the youngest kids in the study, who were 6-8 years old at the time, it turned out that for every hour per day spent viewing adult-targeted programming, the chances of having sexual intercourse by early adolescence (ages 12-14) jumped by 33%.
In all, 10% of study participants reported losing their virginity by this age.
Surprisingly, the correlation was not found among the cohort of children who were older than the age of 8 at study onset.
“We think it’s because the younger you are, the more immature you are, and the media might have more influence,” Delgado told MedpageToday.
“Older children might be learning from peers, social norms, and families . . . but when they are young, they are probably using the media as a reference to make decisions as to what being an adult entails and what an adult relationship means,” he added.
“Watching characters on ‘90210’ or ‘Glamour Girls’ engaging in promiscuous lifestyles where there are no consequences for actions is going to convey that this is an ideal way to behave to get what you want and to be popular,” said Melissa Henson, director of communication at the Parents Television Council.