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Trends in Teen Sexual Behavior

Current Research

By

Updated January 23, 2009

The Centers for Disease Control conducts a yearly survey throughout schools in the United States that helps to monitor significant high-risk behaviors that impact the health of teens. The survey asks students in 9th through 12th grades about their behaviors related to topics such as sex, substance use, and obesity. This survey, called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), gives us information from 1991 to 2007.

This information is important for researchers because it tells them whether or not programs that try to influence risky teen behavior is working. These statistics are important for parents to know because they can then talk to their teen about these issues, knowing what other teens are doing. “Fitting in” is very important for a teen. If the truth is that most teens are not choosing the destructive behavior, it can put positive pressure on the teen to chose more positive behaviors.

In 2007:

  • 47.8% of teens surveyed had never had sexual intercourse. This number has been steadily decreasing since 1991.
  • 14.9% of teens who have had sex have had four or more partners. This number has been steadily decreasing since 1991.
  • 35% of teens surveyed have had sexual intercourse within the last three months. This number is fluctuating, but is generally decreased since 1991.
  • 61.5% of teens who have had sex used a condom during last sexual intercourse. This number has been steady the last few years, but is significantly higher than 1991 statistics.
  • 16% of teens who have had sex used birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. This number is decreasing since 1991.
  • 22.5% of teens who have had sex used drugs or alcohol before having intercourse. This number is fluctuating since 1991, but is on the decline since 1999.

What do all of these numbers and percentages mean? This study seems to say that teens are not having sex as often as they had almost two decades ago. There is more condom use now than in 1991, which means that teens are starting to get the message about safer sex.

When you talk to your teen about sex, don't forget these numbers. More often than not, high school students are virgins and each year more students are choosing to wait to have sex. How is that for positive peer pressure!

Source:

Centers for Disease Control. Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Behaviors - National YRBSS: 1991-2007. http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/pdf/yrbs07_us_sexual_behaviors_trend.pdf

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