Sexual behaviour of young people in Northern Ireland: First sexual experience

Dirk Schubotz, Bill Rolston, Audrey Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Two National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in Britain (Natsal) were conducted, one in 1990 and one in 2000. Northern Ireland was excluded from both studies. Now, for the first time, comparable data about sexual attitudes and lifestyles of young people (14- to 25-year-olds) in Northern Ireland are available. Data were collected through self-administered questionnaires, one-to-one interviews and focus-group discussions. As in Natsal 1990 and 2000, young people were asked about their sexual attitudes towards sex, experiences of sex education, knowledge of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and, if sexually active, about the circumstances in which sexual intercourse occurred. A total of 1013 young people in the target age group completed the self-administered questionnaire. Young people in Northern Ireland do not differ significantly from their counterparts in Britain in terms of sexual lifestyles and attitudes. Some 53.3% of all respondents reported that they had had sexual intercourse. Condom use at first sex was reported by 64% of sexually active respondents; 27.4% said they used no contraception; 26.7% of all respondents said they had sex before age 16. Respondents who first had sex when they were 15 or 16 years were more likely than other respondents to say that 'being drunk' was the main reason why intercourse occurred. Peer pressure to engage in sex was more prevalent among males than females. Young people in Northern Ireland regard friends as their most important source of sex education. School is the second most important source but most respondents wanted more sex education in school. It is important that it is needs focused and includes potentially sensitive and contentious information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-190
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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