Many parents, teachers, and others who work with teens wonder how to address the topic of teens and sex. More teens have sex now than in the 1970s. Teens are also younger, on average, when they have sex for the first time. Most Americans (80%) will have sex for the first time between the ages of 10 and 20. Over half of high school seniors report that they have had sex. For this reason, adults need clear information to give children and teens about sex and contraception. Parents especially need to know how and when to talk to their children and teens about sex.
Teens who have sex before age 15 face a number of physical and emotional health risks. They are more likely than other teens to have unprotected sex, to have many sexual partners, to be intoxicated while having sex, and to get a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Most young teens are not ready to deal with the emotions that go along with sexual intercourse. Because they are just beginning to learn about emotional intimacy, they are more likely to have sex with someone they do not know well than with a relationship partner.
Because many teens will become sexually active before they reach adulthood, parents, schools, and others who work with teens need to know how to help prepare teens to make decisions regarding sexual activity.
Centers for Disease Control (2001). Youth risk behavior surveillance, United States, 2001. Atlanta: CDC.
SIECUS (1997). But does it work? Improving evaluations of sexuality education. SIECUS Report, 25(6).
Rosenbaum, E., & Kandel, E. B. (1990). Early onset of adolescent sexual behavior and drug involvement. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 783-798.
Small, S., & Luster, T. (1994). Adolescent sexual activity: An ecological risk-factor approach. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 181-192.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry fact sheet on talking to teens about sex http://www.aacap.org/publications/factsfam/62.htm
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US: Resource List of Sexuality Education in the Home http://www.siecus.org/pubs/biblio/bibs0011.html
Sex, Etc.: A website for teens sponsored by Rutgers University http://sxetc.org
Reviewed by Novella Ruffin, Extension Specialist, Virginia State University
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, re-print, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Alan L. Grant, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Jewel E. Hairston, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State, Petersburg.
May 1, 2009