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14 & Younger: Sexual Behavior of Adolescents

09/26/11

Author: Josh McDowell

“Why Care About Sexual Activity Among Young Teenagers?”

Warning: The Information in this article is graphic in nature and is appropriate only for adults, especially pastors, parents and youth leaders.

  • “While the proportion of unmarried teen girls age 15-19 who have had sexual intercourse decreased between 1988 and 1995, the proportion of unmarried teen girls who have had sexual intercourse at 14 and younger increased appreciably during the same time period (Terry & Manlove, 2000).”
  • “A recent national survey found that the younger a girl was the first time she had sex, the more likely it was to have been unwanted (Moore, Driscoll, & Lindberg, 1998).”
  • “A 2002 public opinion poll found that 81% of sexually experienced youth age 12-14 wish they had waited longer to have sex, compared to 55% of sexually experienced 15- to 19-year-olds (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2002).”
  • “Based on data collected (1996-1997) in seven cities as part of an evaluation of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS)-Carrera program.  It is one of the few surveys that have asked youth in this age group about or anal sex.  Such data are important because there is some concern – and some evidence – that adolescents are increasingly engaged in such behaviors (Remez, 2000).”


“Nearly one in five adolescents has had sex before his or her 15th birthday.”

“The National Picture”

“Estimates from the three nationally representative data sets of the proportion of youth who have had sex at age 14 or younger are remarkably similar.  Overall, these data indicate that 18-19% of youth have had sexual intercourse at age 14 or younger.  Percentages increase with age – at age 12, 4-5% have had sex, increasing to 10% at age 13, and 18-19% at age 14.  Boys are more likely than girls to have had sex at an early age.  At age 12, 2-4% of girls and 6-8% of boys were sexually experienced.  At age 14, 14-20% of girls and 20-22% of boys were sexually experienced.”

“Results in a Box”

“Sexual Experience”

  • “Approximately one in five adolescents has had sexual intercourse before his or her 15th birthday.”
  • “Boys age 14 and younger are slightly more likely to have had sex than girls the same age.”

“Frequency of Sex”

  • “A substantial proportion of teens age 14 and younger who have had sex are not currently sexually active.”
  • “According to one of the national surveys (NLSY), approximately half of sexually experienced 14-year-olds have had sex 0-2 times in the past 12 months.”

“Pregnancy”

  • “Approximately one in seven sexually experienced 14-year-old girls reports having been pregnant.”

“Dating”

  • “A significant proportion of those age 12-14 report having been on a date (two-fifths in the NLSY survey) or having a romantic relationship in the past 18 months (half in Add Health).
  • “Significant minorities of youth age 14 and under report a romantic relationship with someone three or more years older (girls far more than boys).”
  • “Relationships with a significantly older partner – compared with those with someone only slightly older, the same age, or younger – are much more likely to be sexual.”

“Pressure”

  • “More than one in ten girls who first have had sex before age 15 describe it as non-voluntary and many more describe it as relatively unwanted.”

“Other Risky Behavior”

  • “Sexually experienced youth age 14 and younger are much more likely to smoke, use drugs and alcohol, and participate in delinquent activities than youth who have not had sex.”

“Parents”

  • “In general, parents report talking a moderate amount with their children age 12-14 about sex and related issues, although their children recall less communication than the parents claim.”
  • “Parents are more likely to have spoken with their daughters than with their sons about sex and related issues.”
  • “Parents tend to be unaware of what their children are actually doing sexually – only about a third of parents of sexually experienced 14-year-olds know that their child has had sex.”

“Romantic relationship with older partners were much more likely to include intercourse – 13% of relationships between same age partners included intercourse, compared to 26% of relationships with a partner who was 2 years older, 33% of relationships with a partner who was 3 years older, and 47% of relationships with a partner who was 4 or more years older.  In the NSFG, only 8% of girls who first had voluntary sex at age 14 or younger did so with a partner who was the same age or younger, compared to 24% of girls who first had sex at age 15 or older.  One in six girls who had voluntary sex at age 14 or younger reported that her first partner was 5 or more years older.”


“Add Health also makes clear that, overall, the romantic relationships of young adolescents are of relatively short duration.  For example, 25% of relationships among youth age 12-14 ended after 3 months, 50% ended after 6 months, and 75% ended after 15 months.  On the other hand, sexual romantic relationships in this age group tended to be of longer durations than non-sexual ones; a quarter lasted two years or longer.  Over a quarter of sexually experienced youth age 12-14 (27%) also reported multiple recent sexual partners in the past 18 months, which implies, among other things, an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).”

“Additional Information from Local Data”

“Among 14-year-olds, 30% of girls and 73% of boys whose oldest ‘serious boyfriend or girlfriend’ was 2 or more years older were sexually experienced, compared to 13% of girls and 29% of guys whole oldest partner was no more than one year older.”

“Many young adolescents experience pressure to have sex.”

“Thirteen percent of girls in the NSFG who first had sex at age 14 or younger described it as nonvoluntary, clearly a cause for concern.  Even among those who classified their first sexual experience as voluntary, girls who had sex at age 14 or younger were significantly more likely to say that it was relatively unwanted, compared to girls who had sex for the first time at age 15 or older.”

“Additional Information from Local Data”

“The questions in Draw the Line about the acceptability of sexual pressure found that a substantial proportion of youth feel it’s ‘okay’ for someone to pressure a partner for sex if the couple has had sex before.  Boys were much more likely to think so than girls: for example, 34% of boys thought it would be okay for a boy to pressure a girl to have sex if they had had sex before, while only 14% of girls thought that such pressure would be okay.  Boys were more likely to agree that it is okay for a girl to pressure for sex than for a boy to pressure (34% agreed that it is okay for boys to pressure vs. 42% who agreed that it is okay for girls to pressure).  Girls, on the other hand, were equally as likely to agree that either boys or girls can pressure a partner for sex (14% said it is okay for boys to pressure and 15% said it is okay for girls to pressure).”

“Sexually experienced young adolescents are also engaging in other risky behavior.”

“Seven percent of youth used alcohol the first time they had sex, and 6% used alcohol the most recent time they had sex.”

“17% of girls and 11% of boys age 14 and younger said that, because of alcohol, they had been in a sexual situation they later regretted.”

“These data sets do no shed much light on the extent to which young adolescents are engaging in oral sex and other sexual behavior.”

“The National Picture”

“In the Add Health survey, 12% of virgins age 12-14 reported that a relationship in the past 18 months included ‘touching under clothes,’ and 6% of virgins age 12-14 reported that touching genital occurred within at least one of their recent romantic relationships.  But neither Add Health nor the other two nationally representative surveys included questions specifically asking youth age 14 and under about oral and anal sex.”

“Numerous recent media reports have suggested that teens – including young adolescents – are increasingly having oral and/or anal sex, perhaps as a substitute for vaginal intercourse.”

“Young adolescents don’t seem to know a lot about sex.”

“Additional Information from Local Data”

“The Draw the Line survey confirmed that young teens are often poorly informed about sex.  For example, about half of 14-year-olds (boys and girls) believed it is illegal for youth under 16 to buy condoms (it is not). About 20% of youth age 12-14 erroneously believed that ‘you could tell if a person has HIV/AIDS by looking at him/her.’  Nearly four out of ten (39%) 14-year-old boys and half (51%) of 14-year-old girls agreed with the statement, ‘most teens your age are having sex,’ even though, as noted earlier, only a minority are.”

“Parents and youth give mixed reports about family communication about sex, and seem to have misperceptions about each other’s attitudes and behaviors.”
“The National Picture”

“Parents in the Add Health survey generally rejected numerous reasons thought to explain why they might not speak with their child about sex, such as feeling that they don’t know enough, that the child would be embarrassed, that it would only encourage the child to have sex, or that parents don’t need to talk to their children because the children will get the information they need elsewhere.”

“Parents surveyed by Add Health also tended to be unaware of what their children were actually doing sexually – only 30% of the parents of sexually experienced 14-year-olds believed their child had had sexual intercourse.  This percentage was slightly higher for parents of girls (36%) than it was for parents of boys (25%).”

“One local data set suggests that many young adolescents have ample opportunities to have sex, and many report willingness to have sex.”

“A third of 12-year-olds reported that they had attended a party in the previous three months where no adults were in the house.  By age 14, this percentage increased to 51% of boys and 42% for girls.  Thirty-eight percent of 14-year-old boys and 30% of 14-year-olds girls said that in the past three months they had been alone lying on a couch or bed with ‘someone they liked.’”

“Many boys, and some girls, in the Draw the Line data set expressed interest in having sex ‘at this time in their lives.’ The proportion of boys who said they would have sex with someone they like very much if they had the opportunity increased from 19% at age 12 to 42% at age 14 (comparable statistics for girls were 5% at age 12 and 8% at age 14).  Thirty-six percent of 14-year-old boys and 18% of 14-year-old girls said they would consider having sex if they had a boyfriend or girlfriend they loved.  About one-third of 14-year-old boys said they would have sex because of curiosity and an equal proportion said they would do so to ‘satisfy my sexual desires.’ Of those girls who would have sex if the opportunity arose, the top tree reasons
(of seven offered) that they would consider having sex were similar to the boys – 18% would do so with a boyfriend they loved, 12% would do so to satisfy curiosity, and 12% would do so because of sexual desire.”

“Significant proportions of youth surveyed as part of the Draw the Line/Respect the Line evaluation perceived that people in their lives would be accepting, if not approving, of their having sex.  Half of boys and a third of girls age 14 said that the majority of their friends think it’s acceptable for people their age to have sex with a serious boyfriend or girlfriend.  About half of 14-year-olds (boys and girls) agreed that boys are more popular if they have sex; 36% of boys and 20% or girls age 14 thought that girls are also more popular if they have sex.  Virtually no girls thought their parents would approved of them having sex at this time in their lives, but by age 14, 21% of boys thought their fathers would think it was okay and 15% thought that their mothers would think it was okay.”

“Implications”

There is good reason to be concerned about youth who begin having sex at an early age. Youth who have sex at an early age seem to be different from those who do not, both in their sexual behavior and in other areas as well. Early first sexual experiences for girls are more likely to be unwanted, compared to girls who have sex at age 15 or older, and these first sexual relationships end more quickly. Youth age 14 and younger who are sexually experienced are much more likely than peers who have not had sex to use drugs and alcohol and to engage in delinquent behavior; that is, such behaviors often occur together. Over the longer term, girls who begin having sex at age 14 or younger will likely have more sexual partners and an increased ris of teen pregnancy, contracting an STD, and dropping out of school. Although early sexual
activity in and of itself may not ‘cause’ these outcomes, it does appear to be an early and important warning sign of risk.”

“Parents should be concerned about their young teenagers dating, in general, and very cautious about letting their children date someone much older, in particular. One of the most striking and clear findings from this collected research is the great risk inherent in young teens dating older partners. Parents clearly need to discourage early dating, in general, as well as dating older partners specifically, both of which greatly increase the chances of having sex. Although most sexual activity among young teens is voluntary, there is evidence from small area studies that some young teens, like older teens, can get into situations where they feel sexual pressure or coercion. By virtue of their young age, however, they may be less able to handle these situations effectively than older teens. Such data suggest that teaching middle school youth about how to resist and manage sexual pressure is appropriate. Another clear message is that supervising the social behavior of young teens remains important. Parents and other responsible adults need to know where their children are, what they are doing, and with whom. As noted earlier, one small area study found that fully one-third of 12-year-olds and almost half of 14-year-olds (51% of boys and 42% of girls) report that they have been at a party where there were no adults in the house.”

“It's important to add that simple communication between parents and children about sex does not necessarily reduce the chances of early sexual activity. For example, recent research has highlighted the importance of overall closeness between parents and teens, more than specific discussion of sex, as being especially protective (Blum, 2002).”

“PART ONE:  PAPERS FROM NATIONALLY REPRESENTATIVE DATA SETS”

“CHAPTER ONE:  DATING AND SEXUAL EXPERIENCES AMONG MIDDLE SCHOOL YOUTH: ANALYSES OF THE NLSY97”

“What is typical dating behavior among early adolescents?”

“Forty-two percent of teens reported that they had ever gone on an unsupervised date with a person of the opposite sex at the time of the 1997 survey.”

“Black youth were the least likely to report having ever dated (34% compared with 41-44% for other racial/ethnic groups).  Non-Hispanic Whites who had ever dated were more likely to date relatively frequently – 28% dated once a month or more, compared to 22% of Blacks and 18% of Hispanics.  However, age at first date did not differ significantly by race/ethnicity.”

“What proportion of 12-14-year-olds had sex before age 15?”

“Among adolescents whose mothers had higher educational attainment (defined as greater than high school), 15% had sexual intercourse before age 15, compared with 24% of adolescents whose mothers completed only a high school education or less.”

“Among boys with mothers who had a high school education or less, Black males were most likely to be sexually experienced before age 15 (50%), followed by Hispanic males (29%), and Non-Hispanic White males (22%).”

“CHAPTER TWO: DATING BEHAVIOR AND SEXUAL ACTIVITY OF YOUNG ADOLESCENTS: ANALYSES OF THE NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF ADOLESCENT HEALTH”

“Sexual experience, contraceptive use, and pregnancy – this survey finds that:”

  • “20% of boys, 14% of girls, and 18% of the entire sample report that they became sexually experienced at age 14 or younger.”
  • “60% of boys, 54% of girls, and 57% of the entire sample of 12-14-year-olds reported that they used contraception at first sex.”
  • “9% of sexually experienced girls under 15 reported having been pregnant.”

“What is typical dating behavior among young adolescents?”

“Overall, about half of the teens in this age group reported a dating relationship (romantic or casual) in the 18 months preceding the first round of in-home interviews. The proportion increased with age.  At age 12, 39% of teens reported such a relationship, increasing to 56% at age 14.  Girls were less likely to report such a relationship than boys, especially at younger ages; at age 12, 46% of boys but only 35% of girls reported a dating relationship.  By age 14, boys and girls were equally likely to do so (56%).  Virgins were somewhat less likely to report a relationship (44%).  Differences between virgins and sexually experienced teens in a dating experience were more pronounced among boys – only 40% of male virgins reported a dating relationship at age 12, compared to 46% of all males.  The difference was smaller for girls (32% compared to 35% at age 12).”

“The greater the age difference between the partners, the more likely that sex occurred in the relationship.  Only 13% of relationships between same-age partners were sexual.  By contrast, 26% of the relationships in which an adolescent’s partner was 2 years older were sexual.  The proportion increased to 33% for partners who were 3 years older.  Where partners of young adolescents were 4 or more years older, almost half of all relationships were sexual.”

“What proportion of 12- to 14-year-olds have had sex?”

“Overall, 18% of adolescents reported having had sex at age 14 or younger, boys (at 20%) somewhat more than girls (at 14%). Sexual experience increased with age: 14-year-old boys were more than twice as likely to be sexually experienced as 12-year-old boys (8% compared to 20%); 14-year-old girls were seven times more likely to be sexually experienced as 12-year-old girls (14% compared to 2%). At age 12, boys were four times more likely to report intercourse than girls (8% compared to 2%). After age 13, though, girls began to catch up with the
behavior of boys their same age.”

“One third (34%) of Black adolescents age 12-14 were sexually experienced, compared to 14% of Whites the same age.  Black males were three times more likely to be sexually experienced than White
males (45% compared to 15%). Nineteen percent of all Hispanics 12-14 reported that they had had sex and 9% of Asian teens (boys and girls) reported sexual experience in this age group.“CHAPTER THREE: SEXUAL ACTIVITY AMONG GIRLS UNDER AGE 15: FINDINGS FROM THE NATIONAL SURVEY OF FAMILY GROWTH”

“Sexual experience, contraceptive use, and pregnancy – this study finds:”

  • “20% of girls report that they became sexually experienced at age 14 or younger.”
  • “72% of girls who had voluntary sex at age 14 or younger report that they used contraceptives at first sex.”
  • “15% of girls who had voluntary sex at age 14 or younger report being pregnant before turning 15.”

“How common is sexual activity among girls age 14 and younger?”

“One in five teen girls (20%) report having had sex at age 14 or younger.  Of those who first had sex at age 14 or younger, about half did so when 14 years old, the other half when 13 or younger.”

“Among the three largest racial/ethnic groups, sex at age 14 or younger is most common among non-Hispanic Black adolescents (31%) and least common among non-Hispanic White adolescents (17%).  Twenty four percent of Hispanics report having sex at age 14 or younger.”

“What adverse outcomes are associated with becoming sexually active at an early age?”

“First, teens who have sex at an early age are significantly more likely to have reported ever being pregnant (41%) or to have given birth by the time of the NSFG interview (21%), compared to teens who have sex at an
older age (27% and 14%, respectively. It is not clear, however, whether
having sex at an early age in and of itself increases the risk of teen pregnancy or if the two outcomes are correlated because early sex and early pregnancy are both influenced by the same underlying risk factors, perhaps family dysfunction or a propensity to choose ‘risky’ romantic partners.”

“Girls whose first voluntary sex was at 14 or younger had more lifetime sexual partners, on average, than girls whose first voluntary sex was at age 15 or older (4.7 versus 2.5 ), were less likely to have had only one partner (20% versus 46%) and more likely to have had between 3 and 5 partners (36% versus 21%) or 6 or more partners (25% versus 9%). Because the two groups of teens had the same average number of partners per year of sexual activity (1.3), it appears that the increased average number of lifetime sexual partners lies solely in beginning sexual activity at an early age.”

“Finally, girls who had first sex at age 14 or younger had worse educational outcomes by the time of the interview. They were twice
as likely to have dropped out of school – 20% of girls whose first voluntary sex was before age 15 had dropped out of school by the interview, versus 10% of girls who had sex for the first time at age 15 or older.”

“PART TWO: PAPERS FROM SMALL AREA DATA SETS”

“CHAPTER FOUR: THE DEVELOPMENT OF SEX-RELATED KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDES, PERCEIVED NORMS, AND BEHAVIORS IN A LONGITUDINAL COHORT OF MIDDLE SCHOOL CHILDREN”

“What do youth believe their peers are doing?”

“Nearly half of the 14-year-old boys and three-fourths of the 14-year-old girls thought that most teen who have sex wish they had waited until they were older.”

“What reasons do youth endorse for not having sex?”

“Given that youth seem to have opportunities that could lead to sex, it is important to assess what might stop them from having sex.  Students were given a list of reasons for not having sex and asked to respond whether each reason was true for them or not.  Fewer boys than girls endorsed each reason regardless of their age, but ‘not wanting to get AIDS or other diseases you can get from sex’ remained the most commonly noted reason for most youth across all ages.  Other major reasons included: not wanting a baby, parental anger, and being too young to have sex.”

“As boys grew older, not wanting to get diseases, not wanting a baby, parental anger, and being too young to have sex remained the primary reasons for not having sex.  However, by age 14, disease and pregnancy prevention seemed the most important, while less than two-thirds were concerned about parental anger and less than half believed they were too young to have sex.”

“Girls showed a similar pattern in terms of the most important reasons not to have sex, but in higher proportion.  Nearly nine out of every ten 12-year-old girls selected: not wanting to get AIDS or other diseases, not wanting a baby, parental anger and being too young as reasons not to have sex.”

“By age 14, 94% of girls reported not wanting to get sexually transmitted diseases and 93% reported not wanting a baby as reasons for not having sex.  Parental anger (77%) and being too young (72%) also continued to be important reasons not to have sex as girls aged.”

“What reasons do youth say motivate them to have sex?”

“The top three reasons that most motivated youth to have sex were love, curiosity, and desire.”

“Reasons to have sex, particularly among boys, included curiosity, love, and desire.”

“CHAPTER FIVE: YOUTH WITH OLDER BOYFRIENDS AND GIRLFRIENDS: ASSOCIATIONS WITH SEXUAL RISK”

“Are youth with an older boyfriend or girlfriend more likely to ever have had sex?”

“More than 40% of 13-year-old boys and 70% of 14-year-old boys with a girlfriend two or more years older reported being sexually experienced, compared to less than 18% of 13-year-olds and 29% of 14-year-olds with a same-age girlfriend.  Among 14-year-old boys, those with older girlfriends were more than 14 times more likely to have had sex than those boys with no girlfriend.  The same pattern holds for girls: One-fifth to one-third of girls 12-14 year old with an older boyfriend reported having had sex, compared to 6% to 13% of girls with a ‘same age’ boyfriend.  For each age group, girls with older boyfriends were roughly ten times more likely to have had sex than girls with no boyfriend.  Although boys are less likely to have an older partner than girls, if they do, they are more likely to have had sex.”

“Why are youth with an older boyfriend or girlfriend more likely to have had sex?”

“It may be because the power differential between an older partner and a younger one can be quite large. Older partners generally have more resources, ‘maturity,’ and status (Phillips, no date; Raymond & Associates, 1996). Also, a young person is at a social and developmental disadvantage when dating someone several years older, making it more difficult to refuse sexual advances. The older partner is more likely to
be sexually experienced than the younger one, and some research suggests that older males may seek out younger partners precisely because they are more able to control the younger partner and their interaction with her (Phillips, n.d.; Raymond & Associates, 1996). Finally, older boyfriends or girlfriends, especially if they have access to automobiles, may provide more opportunities for privacy and, thus, for
sexual activity. On the other hand, even if the young person did not have sex with the older boyfriend or girlfriend, by associating with an older boyfriend or girlfriend, a youth is likely to be exposed to his/her partner's friends, who are likely to be older. Older youth; in general, are more likely to have had sex and to express positive attitudes toward sex.”

References”

“Blum, R.W. (2002).  Mothers’ influence on teen sex: Connections that promote postponing sexual intercourse. Center for Adolescent Health and Development.  University of Minnesota.”

“Moore, K.A., Driscoll, A.K., & Lindberg, L.D. (1998). A statistical portrait of adolescent sex, contraception, and childbearing. Washington: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.”

“The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2002). With one voice 2002: America’s adults and teens sound off about teen pregnancy. [Online]. Available: www.teenpregnancy.org/resources/data/pdf/teenwant.pdf. Washington DC: Author”

“Remez, L. (2000). Oral sex among adolescents: Is it sex or is it abstinence? Family Planning Perspectives, 32(6), 298-304.”

“Terry, E., & Manlove, J. (2000). Trends in sexual activity and contraceptive use among teens.  Washington: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.”

“Phillips, L.M. (n.d.). Unequal partners: Exploring power and consent in adult-teen relationships (Report from phase one of the New Findings, New Approaches: Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy Project). Morristown, NJ: Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey.”

“Raymond & Associates, Inc. (August, 1996).  Teen Partners Study (Final Report).
Rochester, NY: Monroe County.”

(Albert, Bill, Brown, Sarah, Flanigan, Christine M., “14 and Younger: The Sexual Behavior of Young Adolescents,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, May 2003)

www.josh.org/resources/research


Comments

I really thank God for this insightful and educative article. I believe it is a must read material for every well-meaning Christian parent who desires to honor God by raising a godly family.
Douglas Frempong , 09/30/11 04:04 AM
Parents should have a careful watch over the sexual behavior of their adolescent children as they indulge in unsafe dating relationship without the proper awareness of HIV.
HIV Dating
vinman s , 01/01/12 06:09 AM

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