Schooling and Sexual Behavior in South Africa: The Role of Peer Effects and Family Instability

David Lam, University of Michigan
Leticia J. Marteleto, University of Michigan
Vimal Ranchhod, University of Michigan

This study examines the influences of individual, household and school characteristics on the sexual behavior of adolescents in urban South Africa. The study analyzes data from the Cape Area Panel Study (CAPS), a recently collected longitudinal survey of young adults and their families in metropolitan Cape Town. We focus in particular on the impact of family instability and the school environment on sexual debut and risky sexual behavior. In previous research with CAPS we found that higher grade attainment, controlling for age, increased the probability of sexual debut. In this paper we focus more closely on the possible role of peer effects in explaining this result, taking account of the large variance in grade-for-age in South African schools. We also take advantage of longitudinal and retrospective data to analyze the impact on sexual behavior of instability in household living arrangements and economic conditions, variables that may interact with school environment.

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Presented in Session 179: Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Sub-Saharan Africa