TEEN SEX: Survey Reveals Concerns About STDs, Pregnancy
A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that teenagers as young as 13 and 14 struggle with complex sexual situations involving peer pressure, drinking, drug use and other scenarios they are often not prepared to handle. The survey, conducted with YM, a teen magazine, also found that teens worry "a lot" about pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Forty-seven percent of teens surveyed said they "have done something sexual or felt pressure to do something sexual." Fifty-eight percent of sexually active teens report not using contraception every time they have sex, and more than a third (34%) have never talked with a sexual partner about preventing pregnancy or disease (40%). Among those who did talk about contraception or STDs with their partners, about 20% did so only after having sex. Felicia Stewart, director of reproductive health programs at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "Teens need to know much more than the 'birds and bees,' they need information about how to use contraception and the risks of STDs, and also they need to be better prepared to deal with the difficult situations they are facing."
Seventy-four percent of the teens surveyed said they considered it a "good thing to make a conscious decision not to have sex until some later time"; 76% said they know someone who has made such a choice. The survey also found that many teens feel that they are less sexually experienced than their peers. Only 49% of teens, whether they date or not, think their level of sexual experience is typical, and 35% believe they are less sexually experienced than their friends. Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of YM, said, "[W]ith the recent attention on teens and pregnancy, it was encouraging for us to discover that virginity has a place of importance in a teen's life."
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said girls they know are very concerned about getting pregnant, while only 39% said boys they know are worried about causing a pregnancy. Sixty-one percent said girls they know are very concerned about HIV/AIDS, compared to 51% who said the same about boys. When it comes to other STDs, 53% said girls they know are very concerned, compared to 43% who said the same of boys they know.
Read All About It
The survey findings will be published in the May issue of YM in a special section of the magazine that provides a guide to sexual decision-making. According to the Kaiser/YM survey, three in five teenage girls say they have gotten information about how to talk about sexual health issues from magazines such as YM. The random survey of 650 teens ages 13 to 18 was conducted last fall by Princeton Survey Research Associates; the margin of error is +/-4% (Kaiser release, 3/25).