Examining ethnic differences in age at sexual debut among adolescent girls in the Gambia

Mat Lowe, Bomar Mendez Rojas


Whether age at sexual debut is influenced by adolescents’ ethnicity has not been examined in the Gambia. The aim of this study was to assess ethnic differences in age at sexual debut among girls in 24 rural Gambian settlements. A cross-sectional household survey of 181 respondents aged (10-19 years) was conducted among girls belonging to the three main ethnic groups (Mandinka, Fula and Wolof). Descriptive statistics and ordinal logistic regression were used to show the onset of sexual intercourse and describe the patterns of sexual debut by ethnic group among respondents. All the analyses were conducted in Stata 12.0. The study findings showed that the lowest median age at sexual debut is among Mandinka and Wolof girls (14 years). The results of ordinal logistic regression indicate that girls in the Mandinka and Wolof ethnic groups are approximately 20% less likely to initiate sex at an early age than girls in the Fula ethnic group.  On the other hand, girls with more than 1 year of education are less likely to initiate sex at an early age than those with less than 1 year of education. It was also found that girls who live with their mothers are 71% less likely to have an early sexual debut than those who do not. These findings suggest ethnic differences in age at sexual debut among girls in the Gambia. The findings also highlight the importance of female education and living with a mother in reducing the chances of early sexual debut among adolescent girls. (Afr J Reprod Health 2021; 25[3]: 78-82).

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