MONDAY, May 4, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Teens who watched adult-themed movies and television shows as children become sexually active at a younger age than their peers, a Children's Hospital Boston study finds.
It included 754 participants who were monitored during childhood and again five years later when they were aged 12 to 18. The earlier in their life they were exposed to adult content, the earlier they became sexually active.
For every hour of adult-targeted television or movies watched over two sample days by children when they were 6 to 8 years old, there was a 33 percent increased risk of becoming sexually active in early adolescence.
"Television and movies are among the leading sources of information about sex and relationships for adolescents. Our research shows that their sexual attitudes and expectations are influenced much earlier in life," lead author Dr. Hernan Delgado, a fellow in the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, said in a Children's Hospital news release.
"Adult entertainment often deals with issues and challenges that adults face, including the complexities of sexual relationships," co-author David Bickham, staff scientist in the Center on Media and Child Health, said in the news release.
"Children have neither the life experience nor the brain development to fully differentiate between a reality they are moving toward and a fiction meant solely to entertain," Bickham explained. "Children learn from the media, and when they watch media with sexual references and innuendos, our research suggests they are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier in life."
The study was presented Monday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, in Baltimore.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about teen sexuality.