Washington DC: Population Council, 2008. 15 p.
Dixon-Mueller, Ruth
Periodical title: 
Studies in Family planning, Volume 39, Number 4, December 2008
This study is an article extracted from "Studies in Family planning" published in December 2008 by Population Council. The aim of this article is to know if there is an age to start sexual intercourse, to marry or to bear a child. This study propose a division of adolescence into three age categories -early adolescence (ages 10-14), middle adolescence (15-17), and late adolescence (18-19) instead of using the customary 15-19 to better capture the age-specific variations in the trajectories of male and female sexual, marital and reproductive events. Three criteria were selected for assessing the extent to which the timing of sexual, marital, and reproductive transitions among male and female adolescents may or may not be considered "too young" from different perspectives : 1) the physiological readiness of the body for intercourse and childbearing; 2) the cognitive capacities of younger and older adolescents, including their ability to make safe, informed and voluntary decisions; 3) institutionalised concepts of "old enough" for consent to sexual intercourse and marriage as reflected in legal frameworks and international standards. Data observed Demographic and Health Surveys in 64 developing countries on application of the three adolescent development criteria lead to the conclusion that boys and girls aged 14 and younger are universally too young to make safe and consensual transitions; that 15-17-year-olds may or may not be too young, depending on their circumstances, and that 18-year-olds are generally old enough. Policies and programs should focus on capacity building and the creation of an enabling environment for making safe and voluntary transitions among all age groups, but particularly among 10-14 year-olds, whose sexual and reproductive health are so clearly at stake.
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