Kaiser Family Foundation, NCPTP Studies ‘Paint Portrait’ of Youth Sexual Activity, Attitudes
Most teenagers say that although abstinence is "a nice idea, nobody really does it," according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study released yesterday that "paints a portrait" of teenagers' sexual activity and attitudes, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports (AP/Baltimore Sun, 5/20). The "National Survey of Adolescents and Young Adults: Sexual Health Knowledge, Attitudes and Experiences" is a nationally representative survey of more than 1,800 young people ages 13 to 24 (Kaiser Family Foundation, "National Survey of Adolescents and Young Adults: Sexual Health Knowledge, Attitudes and Experiences," 5/19). According to the 136-page report, about one in 10 respondents said that sex without a condom occasionally is "not a big deal," USA Today reports. In addition, one in five respondents said that they thought that birth control pills protect against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and one in 10 said that condom use is not necessary unless "you have a lot of sexual partners" (Peterson, USA Today, 5/20). The report also found:
- Approximately 80% of adolescents and young adults, including 79% of those who are not sexually active, are "personally concerned" about sexual health issues.
- Nearly 30% of young people reported having felt pressured to have sex. This pressure is more intense among sexually active young people; adolescent males experience more pressure than their female counterparts.
- While more than 30% of teens have engaged in oral sex, 20% of teens said they are not aware of the STD risk from this type of sexual contact. In addition, 40% of teens said that oral sex is "safer sex" than intercourse.
- About 70% of sexually active young adults and 40% of sexually active adolescents have had a pregnancy test or have had a partner who took a pregnancy test.
- Although 75% of young people said that they know "at least 'something'" about STDs and HIV/AIDS, 25% said that they know "a lot." One-third of respondents did not know that young people make up 50% of all new HIV infections.
- Although 50% of young people said they have been tested for HIV or other STDs, 30% incorrectly assumed that these tests are a standard protocol of routine medical exams.
- More than 75% of adolescents and young adults "express[ed] a need" for more information about sexual health topics, including information about how to recognize STDs and HIV infection, what testing for HIV and other STDs entails and where they can be tested ("National Survey of Adolescents and Young Adults: Sexual Health Knowledge, Attitudes and Experiences" findings summary, 5/19).
Julia Davis of the Kaiser Family Foundation said the study shows that young people have "a lack of knowledge about core sexual issues and how sexual health issues impact their generation." She added that the report shows many young people subscribe to a lot of "myths and misinformation." Tamara Kreinin of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States said that the study "tells us that young people are craving medically accurate information and the skills to negotiate relationships," adding, "They want an adult's guidance and balance" (USA Today, 5/20).
One in Five Teens Have Sex by Age 15, NCPTP Study Says
One in five teenagers has had sex by the age of 15, according to a report released yesterday by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the New York Times reports. NCPTP researchers analyzed findings from seven previous studies conducted in the late 1990s to provide a "comprehensive look" at sexual activity among teens between the ages of 12 and 14 (Lewin, New York Times, 5/20). NCPTP researchers found that 4% of 12-year-olds, 10% of 13-year-olds and 19% of 14-year-olds have had sexual intercourse. In addition, six out of 10 sexually experienced young teenagers said that they had engaged in sexual activity within the last 18 months, although there was evidence that several young teens had sex "infrequently and/or had one sexual partner," the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 5/20). The study also found:
- Approximately one-third of parents of sexually experienced 14-year-olds were aware that their children were sexually active. Although most parents said they had discussed sex with their teenagers, "far fewer" teenagers said they had such talks with their parents.
- About 18% of sexually experienced young teens said they regularly drank alcohol, compared with 3% of teens who had not had sex. Also, 29% of those sexually experienced teens said they smoked regularly, compared with 8% of virgins, and 43% said they had used marijuana, compared with 10% of virgins.
- Nearly 50% of 14-year-olds have attended a party with no adult supervision, and more than 30% said they had "lain on a bed or couch alone with someone they liked" within the last three months.
- Almost 25% of young teens ages 12 to 14 had dated or "had a romantic relationship" with someone at least two years older, and the greater the age difference, the more likely the relationship included sexual intercourse (New York Times, 5/20).
Sarah Brown, director of NCPTP, said, "This is a wake-up call that the efforts that we make toward young people have to start early, that teachers looking at a class of 13-year-olds can't assume they're in a state of latent innocence" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/20). According to NCPTP, "Parents, program leaders, school officials, community leaders and others need to recognize that sex and dating are important issues for middle school age youth that cannot be ignored" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 5/20).
In the first of a three-part series on teen sexuality, NPR's "Morning Edition" today reported on the NCPTP study. The segment includes comments from Brown; adolescent health researcher and study co-author Susan Philiber; Michael Resnick, director of the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Research Center at the University of Minnesota; and eighth grade students about their sources of sexual information. The second segment in the series, which will air tomorrow, will examine the role of after-school supervision in the sex lives of young teenagers (Trudeau, "Morning Edition," NPR, 5/20). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
NPR's "Talk of the Nation" today will discuss the NCPTP study (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 5/20). The full segment will be available online in RealPlayer after 6 p.m. ET. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.