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Fewer Teens Having Sex Than in the 1990s, Says CDC

The new Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a survey of 14,000 American high school students conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control, shows that African-American and white teens are less likely to be sexually active than they were in 1991, though the declines are more precipitous for African-Americans.

* In 2007, 66% of African-American students had ever had sexual intercourse, while in 1991, 82% had.

* In 2007, 44% of white students ever had sexual intercourse, while in 1991, 50% had.

* Hispanic students are no less likely to be sexually active in 2007 than in 1991. 2007, 52% of Hispanic students ever had sexual intercourse, while in 1991, 53% had.

Even as fewer teens are having sex, teen television dramas have ramped it up. Compare the relatively tame My So-Called Life (circa 1994) with Gossip Girl, for which the "OMFG" ad campaign involved images too racy for this family friendly site.

It's interesting, because during the years I've been teaching 9th graders, I've been thinking that teens are behaving more like really young children than they did 15 years or so ago.

Even in the first year of high school, many exhibit the qualities of the Terrible Twos, the age of saying NO! automatically to much of what mommy wants of them. Many also seem to crave attention, needing mommy (=teacher) to tend to their needs and respond immediately. Delay is not tolerated well in pre-adolescent behavior.

I'm not trying to be funny here, but it almost stands to reason that if a teen is fixated in a stage of early childhood, not wanting to grow up and exhibiting behavior that goes along with pre-adolescence, that s/he might actually be less able or interested to move into the deeper and more subtle kinds of communication that are more in line with what you expect from them as a high school student.

I'm not saying they don't have typical teenage urges, but maybe they are avoiding acting on those urges because they're being held back by the emotional needs typical of earlier developmental stages.

Well, with the declining economy, the tanking stock market, exploding gas prices, the health insurance crisis, the quagmire that is Iraq, and everything else that's going on, perhaps sex simply isn't as good as it was in the 90s.

Before we get too optimistic about these results, other recent studies have shown that the rates of oral sex among teens have increased over the same time period. The real story appears to be that oral sex among teens is becoming more common (and also viewed as more casual) while sexual intercourse rates are waning slightly.

This might be considered a positive or negative development, depending on your perspective. But it's probably a bit premature to herald a new age of teenage chastity any time soon.

Anon, good point. This is the Bill Clinton era, after all. Do you have a good source for trends in other adolescent sexual behaviors? I know that Add Health has a lot of these data, but it's not the right dataset to look at trends.

I haven't seen recent national trend data on the prevalence of oral sex. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that in 2002, 10-12% of males and females aged 15-19 had had heterosexual oral sex but not vaginal intercourse. At that time, there were no trend data for females, and few changes for males since 1995. (The 2002 source is Cycle 6 of the National Survey of Family Growth.)

Now teens are being whores and sluts.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Johnny Acejo: Now teens are being whores and sluts. read more
  • skoolboy: I haven't seen recent national trend data on the prevalence read more
  • eduwonkette: Anon, good point. This is the Bill Clinton era, after read more
  • Anonymous: Before we get too optimistic about these results, other recent read more
  • NYC Educator: Well, with the declining economy, the tanking stock market, exploding read more




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