Myth Buster Monday: The vast majority of teens are sexually active

Myth Buster Monday: The vast majority of teens are sexually active

If you watch TV, movies, or any kind of pop culture media, you would assume that teenage sexual antics are here to stay and that pretty much every teen is participating.  You may be surprised to learn that, although society falls far short of the abstinent-until-married goal, there is some good news.  The vast majority of teens are not sexually active, in fact, the majority of teens are sexually abstinent.  As the The Heritage Foundation points out in the chart below, since the early 1990’s there has been an 18 percent increase in the number of teens who aren’t participating in the “hook up” culture.

The Washington Post recently reported on a new study that showed an increase in abstinence among teens and college-age adults as well as a much-welcomed decrease in teen pregnancy.

“The latest round of the quaintly named National Survey of Family Growth found that among 15-to-24-year-olds, 29 percent of females and 27 percent of males reported no sexual contact with another person ever – up from the 22 percent of both sexes when the survey was last conducted in 2002.”

There are many who debate what is causing the shift toward abstinence, but the fact is that –  for now – it is occurring.  For parents, here are a few insights:

Children whose parents monitor them more closely are less likely to be sexually active when they are in their teens. M. A. Longmore, W. D. Manning and P. C. Giordano, “Preadolescent Parenting Strategies and Teens’ Dating and Sexual Initiation: A Longitudinal Analysis,” Journal of Marriage and Family 63, No. 2 (2001): 322-335.

Teens whose parents watch television with them more frequently and limit their TV viewing are less likely to be sexually active. Melina Bersamin et al., “Parenting Practices and Adolescent Sexual Behavior: A Longitudinal Study,” Journal of Marring and Family 70 (February 2008): 97-112.

Youths whose parents talked to them about what is right and wrong in sexual behavior were significantly more likely to be abstinent than peers whose parents did not. Cheryl B. Aspy et al., “Parental Communication and Youth Sexual Behavior,” Journal of Adolescence 30 (2007): 449-466.

Adolescents whose mothers discussed the social and moral consequences of being sexually active are less likely to engage in sexual intercourse. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos et al., “Parental Expertise, Trustworthiness, and Accessibility: Parent-Adolescent Communication and Adolescent Risk Behavior,” Journal of Marriage and Family 68, No. 5 (December 2006): 1229-1246.

Teenage girls are less likely to be sexually active if their parents were married at the time of their birth. D. P. Hogan, R. Sun and G. T. Cornwell, “Sexual and Fertility Behaviors of American Females Aged 15-19 Years: 1985, 1990, and 1995,” American Journal of Public Health 90, No. 9 (2000): 1421-1425.

Adolescents in single-parent households are more likely to be sexually active than peers in two-parent families. E. W. Young et al., “The Effects of Family Structure on the Sexual Behavior of Adolescents,” Adolescence 26, No. 104 (1991): 977-986.

The likelihood that a teenage girl will become pregnant increases with each change in family structure she experiences (parental marriage, divorce, remarriage, etc.). D. P. Hogan, R. Sun and G. T. Cornwall, “Sexual and Fertility Behaviors of American Females aged 15-19 Years: 1985, 1990, and 1995,” American Journal of Public Health 90, No. 9 (2000): 1421-1425.

 

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