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Teens Today Wait Longer to Have Sex, More Likely to Use Contraceptives When They Do

Update Date: Apr 01, 2013 12:49 PM EDT
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It may seem from the grumblings of your grandmother, who complains about "those fast girls", that teens today are engaging in sexual activity earlier and more often than their counterparts in previous years. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at the Guttmacher Institute indicates that is not the case. In fact, just the opposite appears to be true.

"Policymakers and the media often sensationalize teen sexual behavior, suggesting that adolescents as young as 10 or 11 are increasingly sexually active," Lawrence Finer, the lead author, said in a statement. "But the data just don't support that concern. Rather, we are seeing teens waiting longer to have sex, using contraceptives more frequently when they start having sex, and being less likely to become pregnant than their peers of past decades."

Among very young adolescents, very few have had sex, which was defined as vaginal intercourse. Just 0.6 percent of 10-year-olds,  1.1 percent of 11-year-olds and 2.4 percent of 12-year-olds have had sex. However, sex among the very young adolescents is generally not voluntary. In fact, of those who had sex at these ages, 62 percent of 10-year-old girls and 50 percent of 11-year-old girls stated that their first time had been coerced. The study authors state that this issue warrants further attention and studying.

Sexual activity is more common in older teens than in younger ones, however. One-third of 16-year-olds, 48 percent of 17-year-olds, 61 percent of 18-year-olds and 71 percent of 19-year-olds reported that they had sex. Regardless, that pattern has existed for decades. In reality, the number of sexually active teens at any age is at its lowest in 25 years.

Among teenagers who are having sex, they are increasingly likely to use contraceptives. According to USA Today, 80 percent of 15-year-olds use condoms during their sexual encounter, rivaling that of older teens; 85 percent of 17- and 18-year-olds say the same. A year after their first sexual experience, 95 percent of teens reported that they used contraceptives. However, among teens who were 14 years old or younger at the time of their sexual encounter, they were less likely to use contraceptives and slower to adopt them.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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