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Sexual Activity

Consequences Of Adolescent Sexual Behavior

One sexual encounter can lead to pregnancy or an individual's sexually transmitted infection. AGI finds that every time a teenage woman has sex she has a 1 percent risk of contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a 30 percent risk of contracting genital herpes, and a 50 percent risk of contracting gonorrhea. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that although adolescents (ages fifteen to nineteen) represent less than 16 percent of the population of reproductive age (ages fourteen to forty-four), youth account for almost 27 percent of new STI infections (4 million of 15 million new STIs). Based on the 1999 YRBS, female adolescents (ages fifteen to nineteen) had the highest rate of chlamydia (about 2,484 per 100,000) and gonor-rhea infection (534 cases per 100,000) among all U.S. women (404.5 cases per 100,000 and 130 cases per 100,000, respectively).

Sherry Murphy reported that in the United States in 1998, HIV infection was the ninth leading cause of death among persons fifteen to twenty-four years of age. Using YRBS data, the CDC found that although the national number of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases diagnosed annually had declined, changes in infection rates among individuals aged thirteen to twenty-four had not followed the same downward trend. By 1999 more than 800 youth (ages thirteen to nineteen) had been diagnosed with AIDS. Adolescent females (64%) and black youth (56%) represented a greater proportion of those diagnosed. Sexually active teenagers face an increased risk for STIs because they often are unable or reluctant to obtain education, birth control, and services for infection screening and treatment.

Among the world's developed countries, the United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates—double the rate of France and nine times that of the Netherlands and Japan. In 1994 teenagers aged fifteen to eighteen experienced the highest percentage of unintended pregnancies (71.1%), more than twice that of people aged thirty to thirty-four (33%). According to 1999 YRBS data, 6.3 percent of all sexually active students reported a pregnancy or impregnation of a partner. Female students in grades eleven and twelve (8.1% and 13.8%, respectively) were significantly more likely to have been pregnant than females in lower grades (4.8%). By race, black students (13.4%) were significantly more likely than white students (4.3%) to have been pregnant or to have gotten someone pregnant. AGI found that between 1990 and 1996, the national teen pregnancy rate (among those age fifteen to age nineteen) declined 17 percent, from 117 pregnancies per 1,000 women to 97 per 1,000. By race, however, the figures were not as promising. During the same period, the national pregnancy rate for black teens (ages fifteen to nineteen) decreased from 224 pregnancies per 1,000 to 179 per 1,000, while the Hispanic rate basically stayed the same (163 per 1,000 in 1990; 165 per 1,000 in 1996).

In 1998, 12.3 percent of all U.S. births occurred to teens. This teen birthrate has been decreasing over time. Between 1991 and 1996, the teen birthrate decreased 12 percent, from 62.1 births per 1,000 women to 54.4 births per 1,000, as reported by AGI. Between 1986 and 1996, the proportion of teen pregnancies that ended in abortion fell 31 percent; the number of abortions attributed to adolescent women (ages fifteen to nineteen) declined from 42.3 per 1,000 women in 1986 to 29.2 per 1,000 in 1996. Abortion rates appear to be declining because fewer teens are becoming pregnant and fewer pregnant teens are terminating their pregnancy by abortion.

Additional topics

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