- Describe how many teenagers have had sex.
- List several problems associated with teenage pregnancy and birth.
- Discuss how to reduce teenage pregnancy and help teenage mothers.
We saw earlier that the percentage of teenagers who have sex greatly increased during the 1960s and 1970s. Regardless of what one thinks about premarital sex, this increase had at least two important practical consequences: It greatly increased the risk of teenage pregnancy, and it greatly increased the risk of getting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). For these and other reasons, teenage sex rightly arouses much concern. This section examines trends in teenage sex and pregnancy, the reasons for these trends, and possible measures for reducing teenage pregnancy. As part of this examination, it also discusses sexually transmitted disease, which affects sexually active teens but also sexually active people beyond their teen years.
Teenage Sexual Activity
As noted earlier, teenagers are much more sexually active today than they were before the sexual revolution. About 43 percent of never-married teens ages 15–19 of both sexes have had sexual intercourse (Martinez et al., 2011); this percentage represents a drop from its highest point, in 1988, of 51 percent for females and of 60 percent for males. About three-fourths of girls in today’s sexually experienced group and 85 percent of boys in this group use contraception, most often a condom, the first time they ever have sex. In their most recent act of sexual intercourse, almost 86 percent of girls and 93 percent of boys used contraception, again most often a condom.
The birth rate for females aged 15–19 in 2009 was 39.1 births per 1,000 females. This rate represented a substantial decline from the early 1990s, when the rate reached a peak of almost 60. However, it was still twice as high as Canada’s rate and much higher yet than other Western democracies (see Figure 9.4 “Teenage Birth Rates in Selected Western Democracies (Number of Annual Births per 1,000 Women Aged 15–19)”).
If 43 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse, that means the majority of teens, 57 percent, have never had intercourse. It is interesting to examine their reasons for still being virgins. Table 9.4 “Main Reason Given for Never Having Sexual Intercourse, Ages 15–19 (%)” shows the relevant data. The top reason for both sexes is religion and morals, followed by concern about a possible pregnancy and not having found the right person with whom to have sex.