Positive Trends in Teen Sexuality
Special Report - May 20, 2009
A new study by researchers at Child Trends credits the positive changes in teen sexual health since the early 1990sin partto “positive trends” in teen sexual activity, including waiting later to have sex and reductions in the number of sexual partners. The study, “Trends in Sexual Experience, Contraceptive Use, and Teenage Childbearing: 1992-2002,” was published in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The Child Trends study notes the “dramatic reductions in sexual experience and increases in contraceptive use for teens between 1992 and 2002.” Despite increases (three percent between 2005 and 2006), the overall teen birth rate has also dropped by more than one-third. According to the study, “changes in family and relationship characteristics among American teens have been associated with positive trends in reproductive health since the early 1990s.” Specifically, the study linked improvements in teen sexual health between 1992 and 2002 to the following factors: 1) “positive trends in sexual relationships,” including older age at first sex among teens, and decreases in older sexual partners, and 2) “positive changes in family environments,” such as better-educated parents and a “reduced likelihood of being born to a teen mother,”
The study notes that “older age at first sex” is associated with better contraceptive use, particularly for males, and a decrease in the risk of giving birth as a teen among females. It also warns that recent increases in single parent families, including a greater likelihood of being born to outside of marriage, could offset some of the positive trends in teen sexual healthy, noting that teens raised outside of marriage are more likely to become sexually active at an early age and to become teen parents. The authors explain: “Being born to unmarried parents is associated with a more rapid transition to sexual experience among females and with reduced odds of contraceptive use at first sex for males, whereas growing up in a family structure outside of two biological parents is associated with earlier sex for males and females, and increased odds of a teen birth for females, supporting other research indicating the importance of family structure for reproductive health.”
“This new Child Trends study confirms previous research highlighting the importance of delayed sexual activity to teen reproductive health,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “The longer teens wait to have sex, the better, which is why North Carolina needs to keep the emphasis in sex education on abstinence-until-marriage. Abstinence-until-marriage education not only tells teens that it is best to wait to have sex, but it gives them the tools they need to delay sex as long as possible. In addition, it is focused on helping them understand that sex belongs inside of marriage, which, as this study shows, is the best family structure for improving teen reproductive health.”
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.