The perception on today’s teenagers’ sexual activity are not only negative, but also greatly exaggerated. Many may say that teens are having sex younger than before and opting for friends-with-benefits hookups rather than dating relationships, all of which are done irresponsibly and unprotected. Some may even say that teenagers are hosting oral sex parties. A national poll even found that 50 percent of Americans believed that teen pregnancy was on the rise. However, none of this is true! According to government and scholarly resources, we are currently living in a golden age of teen sexual responsibility.
A Few Facts
- The average age of first intercourse in the United States is 17 years old. Only 16 percent of teens have sex before 15 years old.
- The percentage of high schoolers that have sex has been dropping for 20 years. Currently it is less than 50 percent.
- Less than 2% of adolescents have had sex before their 12th birthday.
- Almost two-thirds of teens reported that their first sexual intercourse was with a romantic partner.
- More than 80 percent of teens used contraceptives on their first time. This is dramatic increase since the 1980s, which was at 50 percent.
- Teen pregnancy rates dropped from 117 pregnancies for every 1,000 15-19 year old in 1990s to just 68 in 2008. This is a decline of 42 percent!
- Teen birth rates is at the lowest level since the 1940s. This means teens today are having less babies than our grandparents and great-grandparents!
What may be the cause of this?
According to the Brookings Institute, Medicaid seems to play a large role in these shocking, but promising rates. Expansion of Medicaid eligibility has allowed for family planning services to many adolescents, which seemed to have made a positive impact. Their research also suggests that neither improvements in sex education nor restrictions on abortion has made an impact. Additionally, they found that MTV’s 16 and Pregnant was responsible for almost a third of the decline in teen childbirth rates, especially during the 18 months after the show’s debut.
The most shocking fact is that none of these factors alone or in combination can account for the continuous decline in teen childbirth rates that we observe today. After taking into account for cultural, economic, and policy factors, there is still an unexplained decline of 2.5 percent in teen childbirth rates every year. Are teens being smarter with sex? Are they being more responsible about STDs and pregnancy?
The answer is YES!
Data shows that 80 percent of unplanned pregnancies are with women 20 years or older. More than half of teenagers that get pregnant are impregnated by men 19 years or older. 60 percent of teens used condoms the last time they had sex while only 30 percent of adults (50 years or older) reported to use a condom. This clearly shows that teens currently are being safer, smarter, and more responsible than their parents’ current sex practices. Go teens!