Fewer teens hav­ing sex, but more us­ing con­tra­cep­tion.

Morals, re­li­gion still top an­swer on de­layed ac­tiv­ity

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY LAURA KELLY

New fed­eral data show that fewer teens are hav­ing sex, but those who do are us­ing con­tra­cep­tion more of­ten to avoid preg­nancy and sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases.

The data, pub­lished Thurs­day, are part of the National Sur­vey of Fam­ily Growth, and were col­lected by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion’s National Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics.

The study’s goal was to ex­am­ine the risk of preg­nancy among teenagers. Fo­cus­ing on het­ero­sex­ual in­ter­course, re­searchers in­ter­viewed more than 4,000 male and fe­male teenagers be­tween 15 and 19 years old. The data were col­lected be­tween 2011 and 2015.

The re­searchers note in the study that much of the data has re­mained sta­ble over the past 10 years in terms of num­ber of teens who re­port hav­ing sex, and that there have been slight in­creases in the per­cent­age of teens us­ing con­tra­cep­tion.

“It didn’t in­crease, which is good,” study au­thor Joyce Abma said about the num­ber of teens hav­ing sex, “but the de­cline didn’t con­tinue as much as it had in the past.”

The data in­cluded the num­ber of male and fe­male teenagers re­port­ing hav­ing ever had sex, re­ported use of con­tra­cep­tion and pre­ferred meth­ods and rea­sons given for those who are not sex­u­ally ac­tive.

The study found that 44 per­cent of males and 42 per­cent of fe­males be­tween 15 and 19 re­ported ever hav­ing sex — a de­cline from 1988, when 60 per­cent of males and 51 per­cent of fe­males re­ported ever hav­ing sex.

For non­sex­u­ally ac­tive males and fe­males, the No. 1 rea­son to de­lay hav­ing sex was be­cause it is against “re­li­gion or morals.” For those who did have sex, the ma­jor­ity re­sponded that it was with some­one with whom they were “go­ing steady” (74 per­cent for fe­male teens and 51 per­cent for males).

Ms. Abma ex­pressed some sur­prise that males and fe­males shared sim­i­lar out­looks on a va­ri­ety of ques­tions.

“I think the fact that sim­i­lar per­cent­ages have ever had sex is in­ter­est­ing. Anec­do­tally, you might think that males would be more sex­u­ally ex­pe­ri­enced, but we don’t see that in the data,” she said.

“So it’s in­ter­est­ing how males and fe­males — you might think they have dif­fer­ent rea­sons for de­lay­ing sex­ual ac­tiv­ity or not get­ting in­volved yet — but they seem to be on the same wave­length in that re­gard.”

The sur­vey asked how teens felt about un­planned preg­nan­cies and how that af­fected their con­tra­cep­tive use. Re­searchers found that the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of male and fe­male teenagers who re­sponded that they would be “very dis­pleased” if a preg­nancy were to oc­cur also re­ported high use of con­tra­cep­tion meth­ods.

“For fe­males who would be very up­set or a lit­tle up­set if they be­came preg­nant, only 4 per­cent did not use a method the last time they had sex. An­other way of say­ing that is 95 per­cent used a method,” Ms. Abma said, adding that even those who would be happy with a preg­nancy still were us­ing con­tra­cep­tion. “For fe­male teens who said they’d be a lit­tle pleased or very pleased … 84 per­cent used [con­tra­cep­tion].”

For sex­u­ally ex­pe­ri­enced fe­male teenagers, vir­tu­ally all re­ported us­ing con­tra­cep­tion — at 99 per­cent — up from 98 per­cent in 2002 and from 96 per­cent in 1995.

How­ever, choices of con­tra­cep­tion were not al­ways the most ef­fec­tive means in pre­vent­ing preg­nan­cies or pre­vent­ing the trans­fer of sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions.

“The most com­monly used meth­ods among teenagers are these less ef­fec­tive meth­ods, but they’re most read­ily avail­able,” said Ms. Abma.

Ac­cord­ing to the data, the most pop­u­lar meth­ods of birth con­trol for fe­male teenagers were ranked as con­doms (97 per­cent), with­drawal (60 per­cent) and the pill (56 per­cent).

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