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From grades six-nine, the students took annual surveys on topics including relationships and sex. The sixth-grade survey asked girls if their menstrual periods had started.

The researchers used that information as a marker of puberty.

June 15, 2006 -- Girls with an older boyfriend at a young age may be more likely to have sex by ninth grade.

And those with a serious boyfriend by seventh grade are also more likely to have had sex two grades later. Researchers included Barbara Marin, Ph D, a consultant at the CDC's violence prevention division.

In the ninth-grade survey, students were asked, "Have you had sex in the last 12 months?

"One in 10 males and females who reported no relationship in seventh grade said that they had had sex in the 12 months before the ninth-grade interview, compared with at least one in five who reported in seventh grade having had a same-age or older girlfriend or boyfriend," write Marin and colleagues.

The survey didn't ask students to identify their sexual partner or that partner's age.

In their study, Marin and colleagues found that seventh grade girls who have had a serious boyfriend their own age are three times as likely to have sex by ninth grade as their less precocious classmates.

What's more, girls who'd had an older boyfriend by seventh grade were twice as likely to have had sex by ninth grade as those who'd had a same-age boyfriend by seventh grade.

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