Journal of Biosocial Science

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In Botswana, as in other areas in southern Africa, there is a growing concern about the risks associated with adolescent sexuality. To facilitate the design of policies that can address these problems, it is necessary to gain a thorough understanding of contemporary patterns of adolescent sexual behaviour, and the factors that affect them. This paper examines these issues using data from the 1995 Botswana Adolescent Reproductive Health Survey in conjunction with data from focus group discussions. The results suggest that adolescents become sexually active at an early age, and that many of them, males and females alike, have multiple sex partners. This early sexual initiation implies that adolescent reproductive health programmes should target youths aged 13 or younger. For school-based programmes this implies starting no later than Grade 6 or Standard 1, and preferably earlier. Young males appear to be a particularly vulnerable group that needs further attention. Adolescents perceive that teachers, peers and parents have the largest influence on their reproductive health attitudes. Schools appear to have the most potential for providing reproductive health information, because they reach youths both directly and indirectly by educating their peers. The results also show that male and female sexual behaviour is affected by different factors. Among males, having secondary education strongly increases the odds of being sexually active, presumably because such males make attractive partners. Among females, on the other hand, being in school significantly reduces the odds of being sexually active. This finding is consistent with the policy imposing a one-year school expulsion for pregnant schoolgirls, which was implemented as a deterrent to schoolgirl pregnancy.