London, Apr 1 (ANI): There's a genetic link to the age at which a person loses his or her virginity, says a new study.
And the correlation can be explained by inherited behavioural traits such as impulsivity could help determine when people first have sex.
"It's not like there's a gene for having a sex at a certain date," New Scientist quoted says Nancy Segal, a psychologist at California State University in Fullerton who led the new study.
The unique study of twins separated at birth has been published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
In the study, researchers found that genes explain a third of the differences in participants' age at first intercourse - which was, on average, a little over 19 years old. By comparison, roughly 80 percent of variations in height across a population can be explained by genes alone.
However, determining the extent to which sexual precociousness is inherited is trickier than making a similar calculation for height. A common family environment - whether it promotes or hinders early sex - could cause scientists to overestimate the effect of genes.
By studying 48 pairs of twins raised apart, as well as 23 individual twins, Segal's team sidesteps this confounding factor. This gives us a pure estimate about how much genes affect behaviour," she says.
On the other hand, conservative social mores might delay a teen's first sexual experience, causing scientists to low-ball the effect of genes.
Indeed, the research team noticed a less pronounced genetic effect among twins born before 1948, compared with those who came of age in the 1960s or later.
Other factors may also make the effects of genes harder to discern. For example, scientists found that female volunteers who felt unhappy in their home life were more likely to have sex at a younger age. (ANI)