Perspectives on Adolescent Sexual Relations With Older Persons: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Dafna Tener*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Relations between minors under the age of consent and older persons are legally prohibited in many countries. However, the nature of these relationships, their impact on the lives of minors involved, and how they should be dealt by law enforcement and welfare systems are highly controversial. The differences between the way these relations are perceived by the minors involved and the public are also unclear. This literature review examines them as perceived by youths or young adults who had experienced sexual relations with a person at least 2 years older during their adolescence as well as by students and other adult members of the public. A systematic search of 977 studies initially identified as relevant yielded 16 studies that fit the inclusion criteria. Most (13) research samples were located in the United States, and the remainder were in the United Kingdom (2) and Australia (1). All were published in English. Four main themes emerged from the analysis of these studies: adolescent motives for sexual relations with older persons (two studies); characteristics of sexual relations between adolescents and older persons (6); contextual factors affecting the way such relations are perceived, including the partners’ ages and genders (11); and perspectives on the legal framing of such relations (6). The studies’ findings are discussed and implications for future research, policy, and practice are suggested, highlighting the complexity and ambiguity of the phenomenon and calling on intervention programs to focus on strengthening the family unit and social network of these youth and for policies to address teen sexuality as defined both normatively and legally.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)393-405
Number of pages13
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • adolescence
  • age of consent
  • compliant victim
  • sexual victimization in adolescence
  • statutory rape
  • underage sex


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