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Sexual Activity

Adolescent Sexual Behavior

Overall, fewer high school students are choosing to have sexual intercourse than in the past. The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) reported in 1999 that one in five adolescents (ages fifteen to nineteen) had not had intercourse. Yet, in 1999, 49.9 percent of teens in grades nine through twelve reported ever having had sexual intercourse, a decline from 54.1 percent in 1991. According to the 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black students (71.2%) are about 50 percent more likely to be sexually experienced than Hispanic (54.1%) and white students (45.1%). Older students (grades eleven and twelve; 58.7%) were more likely to have had sex than those in ninth and tenth grades (42.7%). Among male and female students, 36.3 percent reported having had sex within the previous three months with higher percentages among black students (53%) and twelfth graders (50.6%).

More than 8 percent of adolescent students (grades nine through twelve) reported having had sexual intercourse before age thirteen. According to the 1999 YRBS, male students (12.2%) were almost three times as likely as female students (4.4%) to have had intercourse before age thirteen. Black students were the most likely to have had sex by that age (20.5%). Males in grades nine and ten also reported initiating sex earlier than their eleventh and twelfth grade peers.

Nationwide figures from the CDC show that 16.2 percent of students (grades nine through twelve) in 1999 reported having had four or more sexual partners, a decline from 18.7 percent in 1991. More male students (19.3%) reported multiple partners than female students (13.1%). Black students (34.4%) more frequently reported sex with multiple partners than Hispanic (16.6%) and white students (12.4%).

Underscoring the importance of contraception is the reality that teens experience a disproportionate share of STIs and unintended pregnancies. In the 1999 CDC survey, 58 percent of students in grades nine through twelve reported that they or their partner used a condom during last sexual intercourse. By gender, 65.5 percent of males and 50.7 percent of females reported condom use. Black students (70%) were more likely to report condom use than Hispanics (55.2%) and whites (55%). From 1991 to 1999, the percentage of teens (grades nine through twelve) that used a condom at last intercourse increased from 46.2 percent to 58 percent. Concerning oral contraception, only 16.2 percent of students reported use of the birth control pill before last sexual intercourse. Overall, white female students in grades eleven and twelve reported the highest use of oral contraception. Yet the 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males revealed that even adolescents who have successfully used contraception do not use it consistently.

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 7Sexual Activity - Adolescent Sexual Behavior, Consequences Of Adolescent Sexual Behavior, Other Adolescent Sexuality Issues