Determinants of early sexual initiation among female adolescents in Bangladesh: Evidence from a countrywide cross-sectional survey

F. Abdulla, M. M. Hossain, A. Rahman

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: Early sexual initiation (ESI), defined as sexual activity that begins before 15 or 18 years of age, is one of the risky sexual behaviours that has been linked to increased likelihood of adverse consequences, such as sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. However, to date, there are no studies investigating the prevalence and factors influencing ESI among adolescent females (aged 10–19 years) in Bangladesh. Thus, this study aimed to identify the potential determinants of ESI among adolescent females in Bangladesh based on data that are representative of the country. Study design: This was a cross-sectional study. Methods: Based on the availability of the data, the analysis included a weighted sample of 2051 adolescent females aged 15–19 years from the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2017/18. Initial selection of predictor variables was based on the bivariate analysis using the Chi-squared test. Univariate and multivariable logistic regression modelling were performed to measure the crude and adjusted effect of the selected predictor variables on ESI using the odds ratio (OR). The elasticity of the effects was calculated by their 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Results: Approximately 22% and 85% of female adolescents experienced ESI before the age of 15 and 18 years, respectively. Findings revealed that illiteracy (adjusted OR [AOR]: 3.61, 95% CI: 1.82–7.18), primary education (AOR: 2.08, 95% CI: 1.60–2.69), working status (AOR: 1.25, 95% CI: 0.98–1.60), living in Chittagong (AOR: 0.46, 95% CI: 0.27–0.79), living in Sylhet (AOR: 0.21, 95% CI: 0.08–0.56), reading newspapers (AOR: 0.63, 95% CI: 0.40–1.01), earlier marriage preference (AOR: 3.30, 95% CI: 2.31–4.71) and later marriage preference (AOR: 4.10, 95% CI: 3.01–5.59) were significantly linked with ESI before the age of 15 years. ESI before the age of 18 years was significantly association with primary education (AOR: 1.47, 95% CI: 1.01–2.13), religion (AOR: 0.55, 95% CI: 0.32–0.94), female household head (AOR: 1.93, 95% CI: 1.17–3.19), living in Rajshahi (AOR: 1.97, 95% CI: 0.95–4.08), being in the ‘poorest’ wealth category (AOR: 2.43, 95% CI: 1.45–4.07), being in the ‘poorer’ wealth category (AOR: 1.70, 95% CI: 1.06–2.72), being in the ‘middle’ wealth category (AOR: 1.76, 95% CI: 1.12–2.77), being in the ‘richer’ wealth category (AOR: 1.58, 95% CI: 1.02–2.44), earlier marriage preference (AOR: 15.71, 95% CI: 9.09–27.14), later marriage preference (AOR: 12.62, 95% CI: 8.82–18.06) and heard about family planning (AOR: 0.70, 95% CI: 0.47–1.04). Conclusions: In Bangladesh, the prevalence of ESI among female adolescents is a public health concern. Due to the detrimental impact of ESI on the well-being of adolescents, it is crucial that policymakers consider the factors influencing ESI that have been identified in this study when designing health strategies. The findings from this study will help the development of evidence-based effective initiatives by policymakers in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-109
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health
Early online date24 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


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