According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (1988), 22% of females and 27% of females have had sexual intercourse by age fifteen, and 76% of females and 85% of males by age nineteen. My more recent (2008) surveys of teens, for my published book, indicated a lower percentage rate for first intercourse experience for both males and females, in spite of the prevailing opinion that today's teens are out of control. It is also noted that there are decreased rates of teen pregnancies over the last twenty years. The National Center for Health Statistics (2005), reported that the teen birth rate in 1991 was 39 births per 1,000 teens and the current report down to 21 per 1,000 teens, with a 63% increase of teens using condoms.
There are many factors linked to when teens will have a first intercourse experience: peer influences, gender, race, drug and alcohol involvement, parental influence, socio-economic status, level of educational achievement and educational aspirations, and community standards, to name a few. Below are some findings that relate to this occurrence.
- Poor academic performance by grade four predicted sexual activity by grade nine.
- When parents know where their teens were and who they were with (parental monitoring), it appeared effective in delaying sex, especially for younger teens.
- Dropping out of school significantly increased the likelihood of first time intercourse for both males and females.
- Females with increasing years of educational attainment, delay the age of first sexual intercourse, with an estimate that for each additional year of school achievement, sexual activity is delayed by.75 years.
- Teens, of both sexes, who aspired to high educational goals, as opposed to those with low educational goals, delayed sex. Perhaps having goals assists the goal seeker to pause and consider the potential risks that sexual acting-out may cause, and sabotage their goals.
- Studies indicate that parents with higher educational levels had children who demonstrate lower levels of sexual activity, and those children aspire to higher educational goals, and as indicated above, they tend to delay sexual activity.
- Researchers found that 50% of teens with no reported college plans were sexually active, compared to 29% among those with college plans and 13% who desire graduate school.
- Teens who engage in problem behaviors (drugs, alcohol, and delinquency) develop a mind-set that reduces the restraints from violating community standards and norms. This mind-set decreases the value of educational goals and leads to earlier sexual activity.
- Lastly, race consistently has been identified as a prominent variable in teen sexual activity. Black females were four times more likely white females to engage in sexual intercourse and black males twice as likely as white males to have sexual activity. The possible explanation offered by researchers is that blacks view fewer employment and educational opportunities and, thus, perceive the loss of those opportunities less. Therefore, unplanned pregnancies may be perceived as less serious, because educational and employment goals are viewed as restricted.
- These are just some of the variables that may influence teen sexual behaviors. There are other factors such as intelligence levels, going steady, religious beliefs and involvement in school activities that are indicators for teens.