Background: Knowing the profile of adolescents who have precoital behaviors and the influence of the perception of peer sexual activity will help interventions to postpone sexual initiation and prevent pregnancy and STIs. We hypothesize that the perception of peer sexual activity is associated with precoital behaviors in adolescents 15-17 years old living in a low-income area of Lima.
Methods: This is a cross-sectional study with 300 adolescents. The dependent and independent variables are precoital activity and perceptions of sexual activity in peers, respectively. Confounding variables are: age, sex, and educational level. We performed descriptive, bivariate analyses and multivariate log binomial regression.
Results: We included 240 participants, 130 females and 110 males aged 15 (36.3%), 16 (32.9%) and 17 (30.8%). 61.7% (n=148) had engaged in precoital behaviors. From this group, 85.9% perceived that at least some of their peers were sexually initiated. The perception that most peers had previously had sex was greater in adolescents reporting precoital activities (15.2% vs 12.2%). The perception of peer sexual activity was associated with precoital activities (about half of peers: OR=3.9, 95% CI=1.9-7.7, p< 0.001; most peers: OR=3.4, 95% CI=1.3-8.5, p= 0.009). This association was still present after adjusting for sex (about half of peers: OR=3.6, 95% CI=1.8-7.5, p= 0.01; most peers: OR=3.5, 95% CI=1.3-9.3, p= 0.001). Age and educational level were not associated with precoital activities.
Conclusions: Perception of an active sexual life in peers is associated with practicing precoital activities in adolescents aged 15-17 years living in low-income Lima, Peru.