Researchers have identified several factors that appear to predispose young adoles­cents to engage in sexual intercourse while very young or to delay coitus until they are older. Various psychosocial factors have been shown to be potentially powerful pre­disposing conditions for early onset of coitus. These include poverty, family conflict or marital disruption, teens living in single-parent or reconstituted families, parents’ lack of education, lack of parental supervision, substance abuse (especially alcohol), low self-esteem, and a sense of hopelessness (Cavazos-Rehg et al., 2011; O’Donnell et al., 2006; Regnerus & Luchies, 2006). Other predisposing factors that have been identified include poor academic performance and low educational expectations (Lammers et al., 2000; Steele, 1999), tolerance for antisocial behavior and associa­tion with delinquent peers (French & Dishion, 2003), exposure to a diet of television high in sexual content (Ashby et al., 2006; Chandra et al., 2008), and having been sexually victimized (molested or raped) (Lammers et al., 2000). Adolescent females who are involved with a partner who is several years older are much more likely to experience coitus than females with same-age partners (Kaestle et al., 2002; Ryan et al., 2008).

Research has also provided insights into the characteristics and experiences of adolescents who choose to delay onset of sexual intercourse. A few studies suggest that strong religious beliefs, regular religious service attendance, and spiritual inter­connectedness with friends lessen the likelihood of early sexual intercourse (Cheng & Landale, 2011; Davidson et al., 2008; Pearson et al., 2012). A survey of 26,000 students in grades 7-12 found that factors significantly associated with postponing coitus included higher socioeconomic status, good school performance, high parental expectations, and adolescents’ belief that they had one or more adults in their lives who cared about them (Lammers et al., 2000). Several other studies have also found a positive link between delayed onset of teenage sexual activity and high-quality par­ent-child relationships and communication (Akers et al., 2011; Hutchinson & Ced – erbaum, 2011; Parkes et al., 2011). However, the growing role of the Internet in the lives of adolescents may be adversely affecting parent-child relationships, as described in the next section.