Latest Teen Sex Survey

Brad M. Griffin | Oct 24, 2011

Earlier this year the National Center for Health Statistics reported a drop in teen sex. In that study over half of 15-17 year-olds (53% of males and 58% of females) report never having had a sexual encounter with another person.

The Centers for Disease Control recently reported news along similar lines: less than half of youth ages 15-19 (42% of unmarried males and 43% of unmarried females) report having had intercourse. Thats all the way to age 19, post-high-school for most.

If you were going to make a guess based on the prevailing cultural stereotypes of teenagers, these statistics might seem astounding. But it turns out the percentage of sexually-experienced male and female teenagers has been declining since 1998, after a steady rate of increase beginning around 1971.

Also interesting, the 20062010 CDC data show clear patterns of sexual experience among teenagers by family and parental characteristics. For both male and female teenagers, a significantly smaller percentage were sexually experienced if:

  • they lived with both parents when they were aged 14
  • their mothers had their first birth at age 20 or over
  • the teenagers mother was a college graduate
  • the teenager lived with both of her/his parents [at the time of the survey].

Looking at that another way, the absence of any of these factors was linked with higher likelihood of sexual encounters. Looking around you, how many of the teenagers you know fall into one or more of those categories? How many dont? Statistically speaking, adding up these risk factors increases risk of sexual activity.

On the flip side, why are some teens choosing not to have sexual encounters? The CDC report shares reported reasons from respondents. Against religion or morals was (and has been) the top reason reported for waiting (for over 1/3 of those who abstained from 2006-2010). It seems faith hasnt completely dropped off the map in teenage sexual decision-making.

Despite the statistical drops were seeing, the prevalence of promiscuous sex is still high among adolescentshigher than most of us would like to see. Being aware of the numbers is just part of the picture. What attitudes are you seeing among adolescents you know when it comes to sex? How, if at all, are they changing?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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