Teen Sex and Sex Ed

About 20% of the decline in teen pregnancy rates since 1991 is thought to be related to a decrease in sexual activity among adolescents. According to the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), fewer teens are having sexual intercourse and teens have fewer sexual partners than in the past.

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The other 80% of the decline in teen pregnancies is thought to be associated with more effective birth control practice. In particular, the number of teens who regularly use condoms has increased significantly over the past 10 years.

Sex and contraceptive education may be the most effective way to reduce teen pregnancy. However, teenagers generally are uninformed about the availability, efficiency, and choices of contraceptives available. Only 69% of school districts in the United States teach sex education. Most of these (86%) promote abstinence (i.e., not having sex) instead of teaching teenagers how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and how to prevent pregnancy if they are going to have sex.

Components of Sex and Sex Ed

  • Teens must be educated and informed about how to avoid risky sexual behavior and how to use contraceptives correctly. They need basic information about how to protect themselves and their reproductive health.
  • Teenagers must develop skills in communication and sexual decision making so that sex does not just "happen."
  • Teenagers must be made aware of the consequences of having more than one child at a young age. Twenty-five percent of teenage mothers give birth to a second baby within 2 years.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Nov 2000

Last Modified: 09 Dec 2011