Age differences between sexual partners in the United States.Fam Plann Perspect. 1999 Jul-Aug; 31(4):160-7.FP
Researchers have examined the age of partners of young women at first intercourse and of young women who have given birth, but little is known about the age of partners of young women in current sexual relationships or young women who have had an abortion.
Data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were used to examine age differences between women and their current partner and women's use of contraceptives at last intercourse, by marital status and by the age difference between women and their partner. Data from the NSFG and the 1994-1995 Alan Guttmacher Institute Abortion Patient Survey, with supplemental information from other sources, were used to estimate 1994 pregnancy rates for women by their age and marital status, according to the age difference between the women and their partner.
Among all sexually active women aged 15-44, 10% had a partner who was three or more years younger, 52% a partner who was within two years of their age, 20% a partner who was 3-5 years older, and 18% a partner who was six or more years older. In contrast, 64% of sexually active women aged 15-17 had a partner within two years of their age, 29% a partner who was 3-5 years older, and 7% a partner who was six or more years older. Among women younger than 18, the pregnancy rate among those with a partner who was six or more years older was 3.7 times as high as the rate among those whose partner was no more than two years older. Among women younger than 18 who became pregnant, those with a partner who was six or more years older were less likely to have an unintended pregnancy (70%) or to terminate an unintended pregnancy (21%) than were those whose partner was no more than two years older (82% and 49%, respectively). Among women younger than 18 who were at risk of unintended pregnancy, 66% of those who had a partner who was six or more years older had practiced contraception at last sex, compared with 78% of those with a partner within two years of their own age. Young women who were Catholic and those who had first had sex with their partner within a relatively committed relationship were less likely to be involved with a man who was six or more years older than were young women who were Protestants and those who first had sex with their partner when they were dating, friends or had just met. Young women who had ever been forced to have sex were twice as likely as those who had not to have a partner who was 3-5 years older.
Although the proportion of 15-17-year-old women who have a much older partner is small, these adolescents are of concern because of their low rate of contraceptive use and their relatively high rates of pregnancy and birth. Research is needed to determine why some young women have relationships with an older man, and how their partner's characteristics affect their reproductive behavior.