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Doing It Wrong? Teens Having Less Sex, More Babies

Teenagers are never what they used to be. Parents and old curmudgeons alike love to lament the morals lost among today's teens. But the rise in reported births for 15- to 19-year-olds from the National Center For Health Statistics is not because teens are having so much sex, but more likely because they are using contraception less frequently.

In 2007, the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found 47.8 percent of high-school students have had sex, which was down from 54.1 percent in 1991. They're even waiting longer. A 2002 report from the Department of Health found 30 percent of girls ages 15 to 17 had had sex, down 8 percent from 1995. For the same age group, boys were down 12 points to 31 percent. Going even younger, 20 percent of boys and girls said they had sex before 15 in 1995, but only 13 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys said the same in 2002.

Why do kids seem so, um, active then? To find out,


Hardly news, but teenagers no longer date. They hang out in groups. They hook up. And though dating largely stopped decades ago, intergender mingling is still perceived as a breeding ground of promiscuity.

Health researchers say parents who worry about teenage sex (like this?!) can overlook other important issues — the ones that actually correlate with teen pregnancy — such as how well-adjusted children are and how much time parents spend with them.

“This whole moral panic thing misses the point," said author and sociology professor Maria Kefalas, "research suggests kids who don’t use contraception tend to be kids who are feeling lost and disconnected and not doing well.”


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