The first time: young people and sex in Northern Ireland.

Dirk Schubotz, Bill Rolston, Audrey Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The sexual health of people, particularly young people, in Northern Ireland is currently poor. Yet there has been little research conducted on sexual attitudes and lifestyles. This paper is based on data from the first ever major research project in this field in Northern Ireland. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, it targeted young people aged 14-25. A combination of a self-administered survey questionnaire, focus group discussions and one-to-one interviews was found to be most suitable for the collection of sensitive data on sexuality in a country where the social and moral climate had previously prevented studies of this nature. Information was collected on sexual attitudes and behaviour generally. This paper focuses on one crucial issue: the age of first sexual encounter. It explores the attitudes of young people to that experience and the use of contraception. Many of the findings match those of similar large-scale surveys in England and Wales, including the modal age of first sexual encounter and the influence of peer pressure on decision-making about first sex. There were significant gender differences in both behaviour and attitudes. It is hoped that the research results will influence future education and health policy, which has all too often been based on ignorance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-207
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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