Children, especially females, are more susceptible to engaging in sexual activity before the age of 14 if they are scolded, harshly criticized or embarrassed by their teachers at school, a new study suggests.

The study, which has followed elementary school children in Canada since 1986, also suggests that peer rejection could lead to girls engaging in early sexual intercourse.

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"The girls seem to suffer more from these negative social experiences," said Mara Brendgen, lead author of the study. "Girls, generally, are a bit more oriented towards social relationships and suffer more if these social relationships go sour."

Students who at an early age are verbally abused by teachers and faced peer rejection are often the same students who disengaged from normal expectations and turned to generalized delinquency, said Brendgen, a psychology professor at the Universite du Quebec in Montreal.