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Researchers have examined the age of partners of young women at first intercourse and of young women who have given birth, but little is known about the age of partners of young women in current sexual relationships or young women who have had an abortion. Data from the National Survey of Family Growth NSFG were used to examine age differences between women and their current partner and women's use of contraceptives at last intercourse, by marital status and by the age difference between women and their partner.

Data from the NSFG and the Alan Guttmacher Institute Abortion Patient Survey, with supplemental information from other sources, were used to estimate pregnancy rates for women by their age and marital status, according to the age difference between the women and their partner. Among women younger than 18, the pregnancy rate among those with a partner who was six or more years older was 3. Young women who were Catholic and those who had first had sex with their partner within a relatively committed relationship were less likely to be involved with a man who was six or more years older than were young women who were Protestants and those who first had sex with their partner when they were dating, friends or had just met.

Young women who had ever been forced to have sex were twice as likely as those who had not to have a partner who was years older. Although the proportion of year-old women who have a much older partner is small, these adolescents are of concern because of their low rate of contraceptive use and their relatively high rates of pregnancy and birth. Research is needed to determine why some young women have relationships with an older man, and how their partner's characteristics affect their reproductive behavior. In the United States, men are generally somewhat older than their female sexual partners.

Men are, on average, two years older than women at first marriage. Such age differences are generally of little public interest.

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However, when adolescents younger than 18 are involved with men who are substantially older than they are, differences between partners in such factors as maturity, life experience, social position, financial resources and physical size may make such relationships inherently unequal, and the young women may therefore be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by their partners.

Public concern about relationships between young women and older men has grown in recent years in response to research showing that a high proportion of babies born to teenage mothers are fathered by adult men. There is no standard definition, however, of an "older" man in current research and discussion about adolescents. One study, which focused on women younger than 19, defined adult partners as men aged 19 or older. In a prior article, we categorized women aged 15 or older by whether their partner was no more than two years older, years older or six or more years older than themselves.

In this article, we look at a of questions involving age differences between women and men in sexual relationships. Which social and demographic subgroups of adolescent women younger than 18 are most likely to have a much older partner? What are the age patterns of sexual relationships involving teenage women?

Does the age difference between the young woman and the man affect whether a contraceptive is used, or whether an intended or unintended pregnancy occurs? If a young woman becomes pregnant unintentionally, does her choice of birth or induced abortion vary by her partner's age? How do these patterns compare with those involving older women? The principal data used in these analyses come from Cycle 5 of the National Survey of Family Growth NSFGa nationally representative survey of 10, civilian noninstitutionalized women aged in In Cycle 5, the NSFG for the first time asked women to provide data on the characteristics of their male sexual partners, as well as on contraceptive use and fertility.

We used the NSFG data, weighted to the national population of women agedto describe sexual relationships of couples according to the woman's marital status and the age of her current male partner. This group includes all NSFG respondents who had had sex in any of the three months before their interview. We used responses to several NSFG questions to identify the male partner with whom each woman had most recently had sex. NSFG respondents were asked for information on their first sexual partner, all men to whom they had been married, all men with whom they had cohabited and every other male sexual partner they had had since January The information collected from respondents on each male sexual partner included the dates they had first and last had sex with him unless he was a current partner and his age in years.

Although these respondents stated that they had been sexually active in the three months prior to the interview and provided information on contraceptive use, they did not identify a partner at any time during the period. An additional women identified a partner in the last three months but did not report his age. Sexually active women who did not report a partner or the age of their partner tended to be younger, to be unmarried, to be black or Hispanic and to have less education and fewer children ever born than those who provided information on their partner.

We imputed the age of partner for these missing cases, using an unweighted hot-deck procedure. For the women who were married or cohabiting, we assumed that the main partner and partner at last sex was the husband or cohabiting partner.

Women with multiple partners during that period were not asked which they considered their "main" partner or with which of their current partners they had last had sex; therefore, we used the following hierarchy based on the partners' relationship to the respondent to deate one of those partners as the main partner—the woman's former husband; a former cohabiting partner; or a nonmarital, noncohabiting partner, starting with the most recently begun relationship reported.

Because the date of birth was not collected for all partners, we calculated the age difference between NSFG respondents and their male partners by subtracting the woman's age, in completed years, from the partner's age, also in completed years. We calculated contraceptive use from the weighted NSFG responses of women who said they had had sex in the three months and who reported at the time of the interview that they were not pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant and that neither they nor their partner was sterile for any reason other than contraception.

NSFG respondents who were not exclusively using a long-acting contraceptive during the three months prior to interview were asked which methods they or their partner had used at last intercourse in that period. Women were asked to include contraceptive methods used for any reason, not just for birth control, in recognition of the increased use of condoms for disease prevention. Few women, however, reported that they had used condoms solely for disease prevention.

For our analysis, women were classified as using a contraceptive at last intercourse if they relied on sterilization; used long-acting temporary methods, such as the injectable, the implant or the IUD; or used another temporary method, such as oral contraceptives or the condom.

We estimated pregnancies and pregnancy rates for for women according to their age and marital status at conception, their original intention regarding the conception and the age difference between themselves and their partner.

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We estimated pregnancies as the sum of conceptions that ended in births and conceptions that ended in induced abortions. To calculate the of pregnancies ending in birth by the age and marital status of the mother at conception, we used the of births that occurred from October through September as a proxy for the of conceptions occurring during that resulted in a birth. We obtained these data from NCHS national vital statistics reports, which provide breakdowns by the age of the mother when she gave birth. The NCHS natality data provide information on the mother's marital status at the time the birth occurred rather than at the time she conceived; however, information on the woman's marital status at conception is contained in the NSFG, along with data on the mother's age at conception.

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Based on the NSFG birth interval file, women who had never been married at the time they conceived including those who were cohabiting and those who were divorced, separated or widowed were classified as unmarried, while married women who were not separated when the pregnancy occurred were categorized as married. We estimated age at conception for NSFG respondents from their reported age, the date they gave birth and the gestation of their pregnancy. With this information, we were able to calculate percentage distributions of all births during the five years before interview by marital status at conception, according to age at conception.

To estimate the of births resulting from conceptions in by the marital status and age of the mother at conception, we then applied the percentage distribution by marital status for each age-group from the NSFG to the s of births resulting from conceptions to women in that age-group from vital statistics data. The NSFG contains information from which age differences between partners at conception can be determined.

We then applied the age-difference distribution for each subgroup to the estimated national of births to women in that subgroup. NSFG respondents who had given birth in the five years before the survey were asked to report retrospectively about their intentions at the time of conception. Births whose conception had not been intended so soon, or at all, were classified as unintended.

All other births were classified as intended, including cases in which the woman said she had wanted at that time and those in which the woman said she did not care when or whether she had. We calculated the distribution of conceptions that ended in birth by intention status for each subgroup defined by the woman's age and marital status at conception and the age difference between the woman and her partner.

These subgroup-specific distributions from the NSFG were then applied to the estimated of pregnancies in each subgroup that ended in births. We used national estimates of the and age of women having abortions between April and March as proxies for the of pregnancies occurring in that ended in abortion and for the age of the women at conception. To estimate marital status at conception for women who conceived pregnancies in that ended in abortion, we assumed that their marital status at the time of the abortion was the same as at the time of conception.

We applied the age-specific percentages of women who were married or unmarried at the time of the procedure determined from AGI's nationally representative Abortion Patient Survey to the estimated national of abortions to women in each age-group.

For information on the age of men involved in conceptions that resulted in abortion, we used the AGI Abortion Patient Survey. The survey asked women the age of the man by whom they had become pregnant. We imputed the age of the partner by using the hot-deck procedure that we applied to cases missing the age of father for births. To estimate the of conceptions in that ended in abortion according to the difference between the man's and woman's ages, we applied these distributions to the estimated of women in each age-and-marital-status subgroup who aborted a pregnancy conceived in To calculate total pregnancies, we added conceptions ending in births and conceptions ending in induced abortion.

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Miscarriages were not included. Although the proportion of births resulting from unintended conceptions is likely to be underestimated, the proportion of abortions resulting from unintended conceptions is probably overestimated. Pregnancy rates among sexually experienced women of reproductive age were computed as the total of pregnancies per 1, sexually experienced women aged From the NSFG, we calculated the proportion of women in each age-group who had ever had intercourse, since that statistic is a closer approximation of the proportion of women exposed to pregnancy in a year's time than the proportion sexually active in the three months.

We also estimated the of women in each age-group who were married or unmarried as of July 1,calculating an average from theand March Current Population Surveys. To estimate the of sexually experienced women in each age-and-marital-status subgroup by the age difference between themselves and their partner, we applied the subgroup-specific distribution of women who were sexually experienced in the last three months by the age difference between themselves and their most recent partner to the estimated total of women in that age-and-marital-status subgroup who had ever had intercourse.

To have enough cases to conduct our analysis of pregnancy rates by age of partner, we had to define the oldest age-group as women aged 35 or older. The denominator for women aged 35 or older is women aged Certain calculations—the age-specific distributions of women according to the age difference between themselves and their partner and the proportions in each subgroup using a contraceptive at last intercourse—were based solely on NSFG data.

Because the NSFG relies on a complex sample a stratified, multistage de with individual sampling rateswe used the software package Stata to conduct tests of ificance for cross-tabulations. The s and rates of pregnancies, intention status and outcome, however, are estimates compiled from a variety of sources.

We did not perform tests of statistical ificance on these estimates. We used logistic regression to examine the relationship of the characteristics of women aged to the likelihood that their male partner was years older or six or more years older than they were. A second logistic regression analysis explored whether the characteristics of women and the age difference between women and their partner predict use of a contraceptive at last sex.

We used Stata to calculate tests of ificance for these logistic regressions. About half of all sexually active women aged in had a partner who was within two years of their age Table 1. Teenagers were, however, considerably less likely than women aged 20 or older to have a partner who was six or more years older than they were. Overall, the age differences between partners were similar for married women and unmarried women—about half had a partner who was within two years of their age, and almost four in 10 had a partner who was three or more years older than they were.

The overall differences in age patterns between women in their teens and early 20s and women aged 25 or older resulted primarily from differences among unmarried women. There were no ificant differences across age-groups among married women in whether women had a partner or six or more years older than they were. Among unmarried women, on the other hand, teenagers were ificantly more likely than women aged to have a partner who was years older than they were at least one in four unmarried teenagers, compared with fewer than one in five older women.

An estimated 5. About three in 10 pregnancies to adolescent women occurred in a relationship with a man who was years older. In two out of 10 pregnancies to teenagers, the man was six or more years older than the woman. In all age-groups younger than 30, women with a partner who was three or more years older were more likely to have become pregnant than were those with a partner who was no more than two years older.

These differences were greatest among teenagers. For adolescents younger than 18, the pregnancy rate among those whose male partner was six or more years older was 3. Whether they were married or unmarried, sexually experienced teenagers with much older partners were more likely to conceive than were young women whose partner was closer to their own age. Married adolescents with a considerably older husband were more likely to have intended to become pregnant than were those whose husband was closer to their age. Similarly, unmarried adolescents whose partner was six or more years older were somewhat less likely than other unmarried teenagers to have had an unintended pregnancy.

Among unmarried adolescents who had unintended pregnancies, those whose partner was close to their own age were most likely to have an abortion. The proportion of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion was lower for teenagers than for adult women. The greatest concern about wide age differences between women and men in sexual relationships focuses on adolescent women with older partners.

Thus, it is worthwhile to look in greater detail at women younger than Further investigation using logistic regression identified few characteristics distinguishing between young women with partners years older or six or more years older and other sexually active teenage women; however, the small of cases available for analysis limited the power to detect ificant differences. Young women who had been going steady or had been engaged to their partner when they first had intercourse were ificantly less likely to have a partner six or more years older than were those who had just met the man, had been friends or were dating when they first had sex with him odds ratio of 0.

Young women who were Roman Catholics were less likely than those who were Protestants to be involved with a much older partner odds ratio of 0. The only variable ificantly related to the odds of having a partner years older was having ever been forced to have intercourse. The data collected from the NSFG respondents were not specific enough to indicate whether women had had forced intercourse with their current partner or with someone else.

Logistic regression based on the NSFG respondents younger than 18 who were at risk for unintended pregnancy shows that young teenagers whose partner was six or more years older were ificantly less likely to have practiced contraception at last intercourse than were women whose partner was within two years of their age odds ratio of 0. Few other personal characteristics of the young women were ificantly related to the likelihood of contraceptive use.

Young women were ificantly less likely to report current contraceptive use if they were Hispanic odds ratio of 0. Use was also less likely for young women who had dropped out of school odds ratio of 0. Insomewomen younger than 18 had a conception that ended in a birthor in an induced abortionAs we saw in Table 2the pregnancy rate was substantially higher among those whose partner was years older or six or more years older and per 1, respectively than it was among those whose partner was no more than two years older per 1, Sexual relationships in which the man is somewhat older than the woman have long been common in the United States.

As our data show, the man is three or more years older than the woman in almost four in 10 relationships today. Although it is not surprising, given this general pattern, that a similar proportion of sexually active adolescent women have a partner at least three years older than they are, such age differences may have troubling implications for young women. The fact that most sexually active young women have a partner who is fairly close to their own age does not, however, negate concern about those with much older partners.

The more thanwomen younger than 18 whose sexual partner is six or more years older have much greater chances of becoming pregnant and having a baby than do other minors whose partner is closer to their age. To date, much of the information about the ages of young women and men in sexual relationships has been limited to those involved in births. However, those who gave birth were not representative of all sexually active teenagers.

The reason for this disparity is that teenagers who have older partners are much more likely than those with partners closer to their age to become pregnant and, once pregnant, to have a baby rather than to opt for abortion. Compared with the pregnancy rate among women aged whose partner is no more than two years older, the pregnancy rate among those whose partner is six or more years older is 3.

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