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Home conditions affect teen sexual behavior: study

TAIPEI -- Family conditions affect the age at which Taiwanese adolescents become sexually active, according to a paper presented on the first day of an international conference on children and adolescents in Taipei yesterday.

Children who live in high risk families before the age of 12 were more likely to engage in sexual activity at an earlier age, said Chang Ly-yun, a research fellow at Academia Sinica's Institute of Sociology.

Her study also found that children who were domestically abused before the age of six often joined gangs and had sex before they were 12, six years earlier than the legal age for sexual intercourse.

Commenting on the study's findings, Chang said Taiwan should review the school and social security mechanisms available to offer immediate help to this group of children.

High risk families are defined as those in which one or both of the parents have passed away, are severely ill, suffer from chronic psychological disorders, are addicted to alcohol, are separated or divorced, or frequently fight or engage in domestic violence, Chang said.

More than 19,000 high school students and their parents were interviewed for her study, said Chang, who described it as one of the largest scale studies aimed at exploring the impact families have on teenagers' psychological well-being and behavior in Taiwan.

Although the study was done in 2005, Chang explained that the data had not been analyzed and presented publicly before.

Chang's presentation was one of 20 papers discussed at the conference, said the Department of Health's Bureau of Health Promotion.

The two-day conference featured studies on child obesity, deviant behavior, and sexual behavior, and Hurng Baai-shyun, director of the bureau's Population and Health Research Center, said it gave a broad overview of adolescent problems.

“Children and teenagers are important assets to our country. We have fewer and fewer children each year, so we should definitely care about their well-being,” Hurng said.

The conference, which began Friday, was organized by the DOH, Academia Sinica, the National Health Research Institutes and National Taiwan University's College of Public Health.

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