February 1, 2013

The First Time Effect

Recently, I spent the weekend with my niece and nephew. My niece just turned five while her baby brother is nine months old. Both are experiencing many firsts, but my nephew is definitely the one who has the most firsts upcoming. In fact, this weekend, he was pulling himself up, which means he is close to taking his first steps.

This made me think about all of our firsts. We think about firsts specifically with babies and toddlers, but we have many firsts throughout our lives.

One such first is taking the first drink of alcohol. The University of Iowa (UI) reported on this first. In a national study, a UI-led team found that adolescents are more likely to drink sooner in life if they receive their first drink from their friends. The study found that one-third of eighth graders in the United States reported having tried alcohol, and by tenth grade, more than half had had their first drinks of their own. More striking, 70 percent had their first drink by their senior year.

And where did most of these kids acquire that drink? Well, their best pals, of course. Even kids from homes with alcoholic parents received their first drinks not from the home, but from their besties. The UI team looked at five of the most important predictors to determine why teens drink: two separate measures of disruptive behavior, family history of alcohol dependence, measure of poor social skills, and whether most best friends drink.

The most important predictor was having a best friend who drank and had access to alcohol. If a bestie drinks, then a teen is more likely to have her first drink sooner.

Another study about firsts came from the University of Tennessee (UT). UT’s study dealt with sexual satisfaction. According to a statement, the first sexual experience can set the tone for the rest of one’s sexual life. That’s right. That first time can affect every other time, which means the circumstances of losing one’s virginity have lasting effects.

Part of this first and its effect comes from the milestone attached to losing one’s virginity. Many view the first time as a move into adulthood. The researchers wanted to see what influence the circumstances of the first time may have on emotional and physical development.

As the statement noted, “The researchers asked 331 young men and women about how they lost their virginity. The anonymous participants ranked the experience according to emotions related to anxiety, contentment and regret. They also answered questions about their sex life using scales measuring sense of control, satisfaction and well-being. Finally, the participants filled out a diary for two weeks describing each sexual experience.”

What they found was that a positive first time predicted physical and emotional satisfaction. These individuals felt their sex lives were most fulfilling in all aspects. Those who had higher levels of anxiety or negativity with their first time reported lower sexual functioning. With sex, having a good and positive first time may lead to a more fulfilling sexual life thereafter.

Though firsts come in many shapes and sizes, these two firsts potentially have lifelong impacts. Obviously, recognizing our firsts is important for more than just babies and toddlers.

Image Credit: Madlen / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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