Lots of factors influence the age at which you lose your virginity, for example the availability of anyone you actually want to have sex with. One factor you may not have considered: how close you are with your mom. A new Dutch study published in the journal Pediatrics found that girls with higher-quality relationships with their mothers may wait longer to have sex for the first time. The quality of their relationships with their fathers, meanwhile, had no proven effect.
Researchers asked 2,931 boys and girls about their sex lives and their relationships with their parents when they were 12 and then again when they were 16, and found that girls who reported closeness with their mothers were 44 percent less likely to start having sex over those four years than girls who didn't. (Sex in this study was defined as heterosexual vaginal intercourse.)
It didn't matter how close the girls were with their dads, and the age at which boys started having sex wasn't shown to be influenced by the quality of their relationships with their fathers or with their mothers. A total of 233 of the 2,931 study participants—77 girls and 156 boys—started having sex between ages 12 and 15.
As the researchers point out, mothers tend to be the "primary providers of sexuality education within families"—in other words, the parents tasked with giving the birds-and-the-bees talk—and they also tend to talk more often about sex with their daughters than with their sons, which could explain the connection between mother-daughter closeness and the decision to wait to have sex. This isn't to say that a strong relationship with her mother means a girl won't have sex, or that if a girl does have sex, it means she doesn't have a strong relationship with her mother. However, early sex brings with it heightened risk for STIs and unwanted pregnancy, and open mom-daughter conversations about sex—however awkward they may be—can equip girls to make informed choices about their sex lives.
Follow Hayley on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.