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Survey: Teens Say Parents Influence Their Decisions About Sex Most

More U.S. Teens Delay Having Sex, Study Finds

Two New Reports





SURVEY: TEENS SAY PARENTS INFLUENCE THEIR DECISIONS ABOUT SEX MOST – A survey commissioned by The National Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy has revealed that US parents play the biggest role in a teenager’s decision to engage in sex before marriage.

Teens rated the influence of parents at 37%, with the influence of their peers at only 33%. Nearly seven in 10 teens (69 percent) do not think it’s okay for high school teens to have sexual intercourse, whereas two-thirds of all sexually experienced teens (63 percent of boys and 69 percent of girls) said they wish they had waited longer to have sex.

Teens (94 percent) were even more likely than adults (91 percent) to say that it is important for teens to be given a strong message from society that they should not have sex until they are at least out of high school. Six in 10 teens (64 percent) say morals and values are equally as important as health information and services in influencing teen sexual behavior and preventing teen pregnancy.

The survey canvassed 1,000 young people age 12-19, and 1,014 adults 20+ years and provided nationally representative estimates of each age group. [telephone surveys took place in Sept 2004; conducted by International Communications Research. 16Dec04; complete results of this survey-With One Voice 2004: Americas Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy — visit the National Campaign’s website,]


MORE U.S. TEENS DELAY HAVING SEX, STUDY FINDS and an “overwhelming majority of those who are sexually active report using contraception”. The report examining youth behavior found that more young men in particular have postponed sex – 46% were sexually active in 2002, compared with 55% in 1995 — and that 91 percent of those who had sex in the previous three months used contraception.

For the first time since the government began the National Survey of Family Growth in 1973, more girls (47 percent) say they have had sex than boys (46 percent). Girls also report a high rate of contraceptive use — 83 percent. In 30+% of some groups, teens are using two types of contraception, such as the pill and a condom, to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy and of getting a sexually transmitted disease such as AIDS.

National Center for Health Statistics interviewed close to 3,000 teenagers in one-on-one conversations in the home. Researchers praise the periodic survey as one of the most authoritative sources of information on adolescents, in part because it reaches teenagers in and out of school and because it measures not only attitudes but also specific behaviors.

Older girls and African American girls were the only groups that did not show a drop in sexual activity. At the same time, nearly 10 percent of young women described their first sexual encounter as “non-voluntary.” Hispanic teenagers were the least likely to use contraceptives, and 24 percent of Hispanic girls were likely to give birth before age 20, compared with 8 percent of white teenagers. 

Some of the most dramatic improvement has come in the area of teen pregnancy.

In 1991, 62 of every 1,000 American girls ages 15 to 19 gave birth. A decade later, the teen birth rate fell to 43 per 1,000. Even so, U.S. teen birth rates remain among the highest in the developed world. Canada’s teen birth rate in 2002 was 20 per 1,000, and in France it was 8 per 1,000. “There is a strong relationship between poverty and early childbearing,” Kirby said. Every type of contraception, including the newer injectable methods and the high-dose “emergency” oral pill, was more widely used by teenagers in 2002 than before, the study found.

“The really good news is that kids are waiting. They are getting to maturity so they can make healthier choices,” said Joneen Krauth-Mackenzie, executive director of the Denver-based Abstinence and Relationship Training Center. “Kids are seeing the cause and effect; they know they need to do something to reduce the risk.”

The next step is to shift the focus from contraception to abstinence, she said. “When you engage in those kind of behaviors, you reduce your risk but you don’t protect.” One-third of teenagers said they did not learn about contraception in school, and only half of young women and one-third of young men said they had discussed birth control with a parent before turning 18. “It’s quite shocking how little information they’re getting from adults,” said Cynthia Dailard, senior public policy associate at the nonpartisan Alan Guttmacher Institute. [11Dec04,; N Valko RN, 12Dec04]


TWO NEW REPORTS – Amidst cries for scientific proof and medical accuracy, the CDC, National Center for Health Statistics released 2 reports which offer even more evidence that abstinence education works.

According to one of the reports, “Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2002” fewer teens are having sex. Declines were particularly large among males age 15-19. That correlates with the finding that the majority of teens reported receiving formal instruction on how to refuse sexual advances. The report also found that adolescents who chose to engage in sexual activity did so at older ages compared with a similar 1995 review.

The findings of this report reveal the total number of teens abstaining from sex before marriage nearly achieves the Healthy People 2010 targets, six years early. Abstinence target rates of 90 percent for teens under age 15 and 75 percent for teens among 15-17 were set as a first wave goal.

“It’s hard to argue with numbers. Abstinence education is reaching kids where they’re at and helping them to make healthy choices for their futures,” said Leslee J. Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. “Kids want the truth. Contraception educators have been lying to them for decades, saying that sex outside of marriage can be casual and safe. That’s just not true and kids have learned it the hard way, by watching their friends get pregnant or contract an STD. They want something better. That’s why they’re choosing abstinence.”

The report did contain some bad news. An estimated 9 percent of sexually active females age 18-24 reported that their first intercourse was nonvoluntary. “This number is, by anyone’s standard, simply unacceptable and underscores the need for age-appropriate discussion about good touch/bad touch and the need for teaching refusal skills to young girls,” said Christina Espenscheid, Educational Programs Director for the Abstinence Clearinghouse.

A second report released 10Dec04, Use of Contraception and the Use of Family Planning Services in the United States: 1982 – 2002, also revealed bad news for contraception education proponents. More women are relying on family planning services than ever before and yet the outcomes of the studies released today reveal a worsening related to birth spacing and pregnancy prevention education. “Contraception pushers wanted studies and in-depth analysis of sex education programs,” said Unruh. “Well, they got them. I hope they’re ready. They’ve got some explaining to do.”
[10Dec04; Sioux Falls, SD;]