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Abstinence, Having Sex Late Leads to True Love, Study Suggests

Update Date: Oct 17, 2012 02:34 PM EDT

True love is the stuff of romance novels and Disney movies.There are those who enter multiple marriages (without taking out a single life-insurance policy) that believe that true love is near and tangible and refuse to give up on it. For the rest of us cynics, its harder after a certain age to believe in the dream. The most we can hope for is someone we can talk to for extended periods of time without wanting to pull off our ears and someone who we sexually desire at least some of the time. But finding your "meant-to-be," for those jaded ladies and lascivious gents is just as plausible as finding your "pot of gold."

But Psychologists have a theory on why some people give up on love and fail to enter and sustain stable long-lasting relationships. According to a psychologist from the University of Texas at Austin, whose findings are published in in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the timing of sexual initiation or one's first sexual encounter might predict romantic outcomes. Namely, it can determine whether or not people get married, cohabit with partners, how many romantic partners are had and whether they are satisfied with their relationship later in adulthood.

Psychological scientist Paige Harden collected data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health to look at 1659 same-sex sibling pairs who were followed from adolescents (about 16) into adulthood (around 29). Each sibling was classified as having an Early (younger than 15), On-Time (age 15-19), or Late (older than 19) first experience with sexual intercourse.

Results from the study illustrate that later timing of the first sexual experience was associated with higher educational attainment and higher household income for the individual in adulthood when compared with the Early and On-Time groups. Individuals who had a later first sexual experience were also less likely to be married and they had fewer romantic partners in adulthood.

The study also notes that "among the participants who were married or living with a partner, later sexual initiation was associated with significantly lower levels of relationship dissatisfaction in adulthood. The association held up even after taking genetic and environmental factors into account and could not be explained by differences in adult educational attainment, income, or religiousness, or by adolescent differences in dating involvement, body mass index, or attractiveness," as reported by the Association for Psychological Sciences.

These results conclude that timing is everything when it comes to maintaining stable, healthy and happy relationships in adulthood. Researchers stress that the findings should not be interpreted as early encounters being risk factor for failing relationships, rather waiting can act as protection against the dissatisfaction and impatiens normally felt among those who loose their virginity to early.

The study's author suggests that reasons behind these results can probably be attributed to the fact that while people who wait may have characteristic traits such as being overparticular or having physical insecurities that might make them fastidious or anxious when choosing a partner; this then gives them a chance to grow into themselves more and make thoughtful decisions about relationships.

Harden explains that it's possible that "individuals who first navigate intimate relationships in young adulthood, after they have accrued cognitive and emotional maturity, may learn more effective relationship skills than individuals who first learn scripts for intimate relationships while they are still teenagers."

Parents should talk to their kids about the importance of waiting. Even for families who are overtly religious, discussing the practical reasons why waiting is the best option can go a long way in educating your child about the dangers of unprotected sex and the long-lasting benefits and over all well-being felt when your daughter or son waits to grow into their own first.

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