Teenagers with weakness in "working memory" often face difficulty with impulse control and understanding the consequences of their actions, making them more prone to risky sexual behavior, researchers at the University of Oregon have concluded. The researchers studied the self-control and sexual behaviors of 260 adolescents between ages 12 and 15. 

"Working memory" is described as the portion of short-term memory that is concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing.

During the two-year study period, the team analyzed the effect of working memory on the changes in the youths' behavior and self-control. The team found that teens with weaker working memory had greater impulsive tendencies. This, in turn, increased their likelihood of getting involved in unprotected sex early in life.

In addition, the teens' urge to have sex seemed far stronger than their understanding of the potential adverse consequences of doing so, including unplanned pregnancies and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, researchers said.

"We extended previous findings by showing for the first time that individuals who have pre-existing weakness in working memory are more likely to have difficulty controlling impulsive tendencies in early to mid adolescence," said lead researcher Atika Khurana from the University of Oregon.

The complete study has been published in the journal Child Development.