Concerning Young Adult Sexual Trends
Special Report - January 14, 2011
Intimate relationships among 18 to 25 year-olds today are characterized by diversity and sometimes violence, according to a new report released this month by Child Trends. The report, “Characteristics of Young Adult Sexual Relationships,” is based on data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health (or Add Health), which is a nationally representative study of 14,322 students in the 7th through 12th grades. The Add Health study began in 1994-1995, and followed the students into young adulthood. For this report, Child Trends examined about 7,500 heterosexual young adults from the study who were in current sexual relationships.
The Child Trends report notes that high levels of non-marital childbearing and sexually transmitted disease (STD) are found among young adults today. “Young adulthood has become an increasingly distinct and extended stage of development, a period of transition between adolescence and adulthood when people explore many potential life directions,” the report states. “The types of sexual relationships that young adults form and the choices that they make within these relationships can have a long-lasting impact on their lives.”
Most, or 75 percent, of young adults in the Child Trends study sample were in some type of intimate relationship (25 percent were not). Of those involved in an intimate relationship, 35 percent were dating (either exclusively or casually), 20 percent were married, and 20 percent were cohabiting. The study found that almost one-third of the young adults who were involved in relationships reported having had sex with their partner within four weeks of their first meeting. Thirty percent reported having sex within five months, 25 percent within one year or more, 14 percent between six and 11 months, and five percent after knowing their partner for only one day. Interestingly, 30 percent of young adults who were currently married reported waiting at least one year or longer to have sex with their partner, compared to 24 percent of those exclusively dating, and 21 percent of those cohabiting. According to the report, young adults who were in casual dating relationships were more likely than those in exclusive dating relationships to have had sex early in their relationship.
A disturbing finding from the report is that nearly one-third of young adult relationships are “characterized by high levels of violence.” Overall, 26 percent of the young adults in the study had experienced some type of intimate partner violence (either as the perpetrator or the victim). Among the types of violence reported by young adults:
- 22 percent reported threats, throwing things or pushing/shoving
- 10 percent reported slapping/kicking
- Seven percent reported experiencing injury as a result of violence.
Finally, the Child Trends researchers examined the levels of love in various types of young adult relationships. The study found that young adults who were married (90 percent), cohabiting (88 percent) or exclusively dating (84 percent) tended to report higher levels of love for and from their partners than those who were casually dating (33 percent). Additionally, the study found that two-thirds of young adults reported using contraception, including 34 percent who reported using condoms. Overall, those who were involved in exclusive dating relationships were the most likely to report some form of contraceptive use, while married young adults were the least likely to report using contraception (79 percent versus 55 percent, respectively).
Census Report Examines Cohabitation - November 9, 2010
Study Shows College Marriage Gap - October 22, 2010
Most Children Live With Parents - July 27, 2010
Characteristics of Cohabiting Adults Studied - July 16, 2009
The Benefits of Marriage - FNC - Nov/Dec, 2008
Married and Healthy - September 16, 2008
Report Analyzes Cohabitation Effects - June 23, 2008
Landmark Study Estimates Costs of Family Fragmentation - April 16, 2008
Traditional Family Still the Majority - February 27, 2008
How Cohabitation Undermines Marriage and the Family - Findings - June 2005
Attitudes On Sex And Marriage - November 23, 2010
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