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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.”


Join The Conversation
reesiecup reesiecup 8 years
sex ed is lagging in private and public schools
Symphonee Symphonee 8 years
I think that it should be taught in schools because what about that child whose parents take absolutely no interest in them. What happens when that kid starts talking to your kid and spreading false info? I don't think that this should be in taught in the elementary schools but middle and highschool seems more than appropriate.
Symphonee Symphonee 8 years
My parents did not talk to me about sex until my sister came home pregnant at 14 and I was 11. All they said was sex caused babies and if I followed in her footsteps I would get thrown out. Scared me but not enough. I had a health class in high school and that pretty much scared me silly. I had learned all types of stupid and dead wrong sex "facts" from my peers who passed around diseases like class notes. The health class taught everything from the effects of smoking to STI's. I am glad that i had the class and I would want what I teach my son's reinforced in school. My parents took the so called easy scared road and it in no way helped their daughters for what they came up against.
Silje Silje 8 years
Always thought that not teaching sex ed/ health class is waaay irresponsible, and in a large part the reason for many teenage pregnancies. Here in Norway we're taught sex ed in small girl groups and boy groups at the age of 12, and once again at the age of 15, to make sure that everybody understands the importance of protection, and to avoid weird myths like the under-water-thing someone mentioned. Only teaching abstinence only just won't do. I believe that being taught sex ed will not make those who have decided to wait until marriage go for it anyway, but being taught abstinence only will not change the mind of someone who doesn't believe in waiting, it will only make them more prone to pregnancies and STDs because they don't know how to protect themselves.
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
Well that's what they said when I asked about it later in life, they didn't talk about it because they are conservative and don't talk about those things. Irresponsible is a fair assessment, idiotic is a bit harsh.
acyl acyl 8 years
(wait nevermind i had it right--need edit button!)
acyl acyl 8 years
" THEY won't figure it out"
acyl acyl 8 years
mydiadem: A "conservative" parent is one who doesn't talk about sex with their children? I thought that was irresponsible. Honestly, why do some people think that if you don't talk about sex your kids won't figure it out?
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
I meant to type Jonas Brothers.
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
Thanks for calling my parents idiots. I don't think they are, I just think they are conservative. Whatevs. And is that a picture of the Joans brothers with this article? Its kind of funny if it is.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
dm8- my class in school was called health. Teaching about an std is no different than teaching about pneumonia or risks of smoking. It is about being healthy.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
I actually don't mind sex ed in schools. I took it, and my parents were the ones who never had conversations with me about sex. They only said they would disown me if I got pregnant. That was enough for me. I think they should teach kids about stds and the like. But they should stress that the ONLY way to not get an std or pregnant is abstinence. But when it comes down to it, it is a parenting problem. And had I gotten pregnant in high school, my parents would have been responsible, not the school. I didn't even pay attention in health (which sex ed was just a small portion of that class)
dm8bri dm8bri 8 years
Along those lines, what happens when the under- or uneducated child gives birth to a child and doesn't have the first clue about parenting, let alone teaching them about something they didn't know about in the first place. Vicious cycle that can only start to be broken by a solid educational system. Also, why does it have to be called "sex ed"?? Why can't it be part of a required health or biology class? It's a natural part of life.
dm8bri dm8bri 8 years
It's unrealistic to expect that all parents are going to take responsibility to teach their kids sex ed. Yes, it's ultimately their responsibility, but it largely doesn't happen. If we took sex ed out of schools or didn't teach it properly, we would reap the consequences. I guess that's ok in theory, but I believe in preventative measures and not relying on parents and families. What about the kid who doesn't have parents, or the kid whose parents believe sex is bad and dirty and won't even address the subject? We can't let them slip through the cracks. Otherwise we create more unwanted teen pregnancies, unwanted children, rampant STDs, etcetc. Think about it this way: in your adult life, after a solid early education on your sexuality, you fall in love with someone who had no clue as a teenager and gives you a dormant STD or is saddled with a kid. Would've been nice if their school had taken part in educating them in the first place and not relied on their parents.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
I would really like to be able to do paragraph breaks in comments again.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
"isn't the school's problem. That's the idiotic parent's problem" But then it also becomes the child's problem when he or she makes a huge mistake because no one, neither his or her parents nor the schools, were required to teach him or her the basics of, say, reproduction and STDs. There are laws in place to protect children from the consequences of their parents' idiocy. This is also why we don't leave the education of children up to their parents--you can't guarantee a standardized education of what they need to know that way.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I agree acyl, but isn't the school's problem. That's the idiotic parent's problem
acyl acyl 8 years
"It should not be up to the school to teach sex ed, it should be parents, therefore this is a parenting problem, not a schools abstinence only policy." You know what? Some parents just don't wanna go there, or just don't care.
starangel82 starangel82 8 years
Oh I remember in health class, they showed a video of what a woman's insides looked like if she caught genital warts, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. That'll scare you good your freshman year of HS.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
Mydiadem it was the opposite for me. I was so terrified of getting an STD or pregnant that I didn't have sex until post HS. Despite being on the pill (for health/period reasons) I never trusted one form of bc alone and the thought of getting genital warts just from intimate contact (no sex required) still terrifies me to this day. Those Sex Ed classes in middle school scared me straight.
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
Good thing I was terrified of sex for ages and didn't want to do it until I was in college. I never had a sex ed class (catholic school) and my parents being strict catholics never taught me anything about it. The closest I ever got to sex ed is once in the car when I was 13(which is were all the serious convos went down in my family - because you couldn't escape) my Mom said, "Don't even think about having sex." (hence the terror).I had to learn how about birth control methods on my own years later. I could see my situation being the same as a lot of young folks today. Its great to have your parents sit you down and show you how to put a condom on a banana, but not everyone's parents will do that. I wish I would have had sex ed classes in school so I wouldn't have been so clueless. Needless to say, in my high school we had quite a few teen preganancies. In fact, our high school's teen pregnancy rate was higher than another other public school in the city.
starangel82 starangel82 8 years
I think it's great that schools teach sex ed, but I full believe it is ultimately up to the parents to make sure their child knows about abstinence AND safe sex. I vividly remember asking my mother when I was 10 about how babies were made. She got out her nursing text book and explained the whole shebang to me. Then when I had sex ed in school at 13 (of course my parents had to sign a waiver), my mom sat me down when I came home from school and made sure I understood everything I was taught. And answered any questions I had. Even though my parents pushed abstinence, they still made sure I would know how to protect myself if I chose not to wait.
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 8 years
If a child is going to have sex they are going to have sex. We need to be responsible and teach them the safe way to do that.
lildorothyparker lildorothyparker 8 years
While I agree that this is largely a parenting problem, I do not object to some form of health education in schools. When I was in high school sex ed/heath classes were part of the physical education curriculum. I think it is important to give parents the option to remove their children from these classes if they truly object, but I honestly don't see the harm in teaching teenagers the basics.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I agree with Hainan. This is a parenting problem. I also agree with janneth that you can't legislate what parents do. But schools should not be in the sex ed industry.
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