Reported Number of Teen Virgins Rises
July 23, 2002
US teens who are virgins outnumber their sexually active peers, according to the 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report (YRBSS) released late last month. Conducted every two years by the CDC, the report asked 13,601 teens about such things as substance use, sexual behavior and physical activity. In 1990, the YRBSS found that 54.3 percent of teens in grades 9-12 had had sexual intercourse. By 2001, however, 54.4 percent of high school students said they had not had sex.
The YRBSS has been one of two primary vehicles to track teen sexual behavior, said Kristin A. Moore, president of Child Trends Inc. The National Survey of Family Growth is the other vehicle, she said. The most recent NSFG was in 1995, and the next one -- due in a year or so -- is eagerly anticipated because it will include teens who are not in school, she said. While the YRBSS data show an important change in teen sexual activity, "I don't think it's strong enough to be a U-turn," said Moore.
"It's trending down," Moore said, "but even with improvements, we have a lot of kids who are having risky sex." It even appears that there could be two very different groups of teens -- "some of whom are committed to abstinence, to marriage, and some of whom are really quite sexually active," she said.
LeAnn Benn, director of the Teen-Aid abstinence program and advisory board member of Abstinence Clearinghouse, said, "The only thing that changed in that time frame is the amount of talk and programming for abstinence until marriage." But William Smith, director of public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, saw a broader explanation for declining teen sexual activity rates. "I think that it coincides with the overwhelming number of young people who are reporting that they are getting HIV/AIDS education," he said, noting that virtually 90 percent of high school students say they are learning about AIDS, according to the 1999 and 2001 YRBSS reports.
07.22.02; Cheryl Wetzstein
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.