Early Sexual Debut and Its Associated Factors Among Young Women Aged 15–24 in Mali : A Multilevel Analysis

Bernard Yeboah Asiamah ASARE, Betregiorgis ZEGEYE, Bright Opoku AHINKORAH, Edward Kwabena AMEYAW, Abdul-Aziz SEIDU, Sanni YAYA*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Early sexual debut is associated with increased risk of several sexual and reproductive health problems, including unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Hence, determining factors that promote early sexual initiation is significant to guide policy and inform interventions aimed to promote the health of young people through to adulthood. This study examined the prevalence of early sexual debut and its associated factors among young women in Mali. Using cross-sectional nationally representative data from the 2018 Mali Demographic and Health Survey, a total of 4063 young women aged 15–24 were included in the study. Multilevel binary logistic regression analysis was done to determine the factors associated with early sexual debut. The results were presented using adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). The prevalence of early sexual debut in Mali was 17.8% (95% CI; 16–19.7%). Young women who attended higher school had lower odds of early sexual debut (aOR = 0.10, 95% CI; 0.01–0.82) compared to young women who had no formal education. Young women from richest households had lower odds of early sexual debut compared to those from the poorest households (aOR = 0.48, 95% CI; 0.27–0.82). Young women from households with large family size also had lower odds of experiencing early sexual debut compared to those in small family size (aOR = 0.81, 95% CI; 0.66–0.99). Furthermore, the odds of early sexual debut were lower among young women in Koulikoro (aOR = 0.59, 95% CI; 0.39–0.90), Sikasso (aOR = 0.35, 95% CI; 0.21–0.56), Segou (aOR = 0.40, 95% CI; 0.25–0.64), and Mopti (aOR = 0.44, 95% CI; 0.23–0.82) regions compared to young women in Kayes region. Higher odds of early sexual debut were found among currently employed compared to not currently employed young women (aOR = 1.74, 95% CI; 1.42–2.12) and currently married compared to not currently married young women (aOR = 4.64, 95% CI; 3.64–5.92). Young women from the Peulh ethnic groups compared to those from the Bambara ethnic groups were at a higher odds of early sexual debut (aOR = 1.43, 95% CI; 1.03–1.99). The findings suggest the need for interventions aimed at addressing early sexual debut among young women. These can include emphasizing the promotion and importance of female education, addressing the cultural practices that promote negative sexual norms/practices such as child marriages, and ensuring social change through efforts such as creating employment or economic opportunities for families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2491-2502
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number6
Early online date17 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Early sexual debut
  • Mali
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Sexual initiation
  • Young women


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