Adolescent Sexual Development and Peer Groups: Reciprocal Associations and Shared Genetic and Environmental Influences

D. Angus Clark, C. Emily Durbin, Mary M. Heitzeg, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue, Brian M. Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Peer groups influence the emergence of sexual behaviors in adolescence, but many details regarding the mechanisms underlying these effects have yet to be described. We examined the phenotypic, genetic, and environmental links between both antisocial and prosocial peer characteristics, and several sexual behaviors from middle childhood to late adolescence (ages 11, 14, and 17 years) using a longitudinal twin sample (N = 3762). Antisocial peers predicted greater engagement in both normative (e.g., dating) and non-normative (e.g., early sexual intercourse) sexual behaviors, while prosocial peers were associated with a lower likelihood of engaging in non-normative sexual behaviors. Reciprocal effects were also observed such that early sexual experiences were associated with a more antisocial and less prosocial peer groups later in adolescence. Behavioral genetic models indicated that most of the overlap between peer group characteristics and sexual behavior was due to shared environmental influences. That is, some features of the adolescent environment exert a press toward (or against) antisocial peers and sexual behaviors. Together, the results extend the existing literature by highlighting the ways through which peer affiliations are related to sexual development in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalArchives of sexual behavior
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • Adolescence
  • Behavior genetics
  • Heritability
  • Peer behavior
  • Sexual behavior
  • Shared environmental influences

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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