Good news! In spite of America’s highly sexualized culture, most teens are postponing sex until their late teens or older, and when they do start, they typically use some kind of birth control, a new federal study shows.
The data, based on in-person interviews with 4,662 never-married teens ages 15-19, was collected by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2006-2010 for its National Survey of Family Growth.
But while teens are using condoms more often, they are not doing so consistently.
* 78 percent of girls and 85 percent of boys said they used a contraceptive the first time they had sex.
* 86 percent of girls and 93 percent of boys said they used a contraceptive the most recent time they had sex.
* Only 49 percent of girls and 66.5 percent of boys said they used a contraceptive every time they had sex in the past four weeks.
* Since 2002, the percentage of teen boys using condoms the first time they had sex increased 9 percentage points; their use of condoms in combination with another method rose 6 percentage points.
So that’s excellent news. And here’s more:
* Among those surveyed, 57 percent of girls and 58 percent of boys said they had not had sexual intercourse. These numbers are dramatically higher than those seen in 1988, when 72 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys said they were sexually active by ages 18 or 19.
Among the teens who say they’ve never had sex, the most frequent reason given is “against religion or morals,” cited by 41 percent of girls and 31 percent of boys.
Significant Long-Term Decline In Teen Sex
From The Washington Times:
These sexual activity rates are similar to what was seen in the 2002 survey, and reflect a “significant long-term decline” over the last 20 years, said Gladys Martinez, lead author of the report released Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
“These trends are so encouraging … because they are moving in the right direction,” in spite of the sexualized culture, said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association.
The NCHS report should “bust a number of myths” about teens and sex, said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Teen Birth Rate Still High
There is of course another aspect to teenage sexual activity.
As The Washington Post reports, after rising for many years, teen pregnancy and birth rates declined steadily between 1991 and 2005. But the pregnancy rate jumped about 3 percent and the birth rate increased by about 5 percent between 2005 and 2007, triggering widespread alarm and an intense debate over whether the emphasis on abstinence-until-marriage sex education or so-called “comprehensive” sex education that includes information about contraceptives was to blame.
And that debate is still raging.
Nontheless, the results of this new survey are encouraging.
Photo Credit: pondluna