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The Relationship Between Adolescent Sexual Activity and the Lack of Adult Supervision

January 17, 2003

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

The December issue of Pediatrics features a study that examines when and where young people have sexual intercourse. Researchers wanted to determine if there is a link between lack of adult supervision and adolescent sexual activity.


Methods

Researchers recruited 2,034 high school students (1,065 males and 969 females), from six school-based sexually transmitted disease (STD) screening programs in an urban school district.

Participants completed a seven-question survey that asked about their sexual activity and the number of hours they spend unsupervised each week.

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Results

Supervision

  • 23% of participants reported always being supervised after school
  • 56% of participants reported being unsupervised after school for at least four or more hours per day
  • 48% of participants reported participating in, or planning to participate in, after-school activities

Sexual Activity

  • 74.3% of participants reported having had sexual intercourse in their lifetimes
  • 21% of males and 3.2% of females reported first having had sexual intercourse before age 13
  • 20.5% of males and 5.7% of females reported first having had sexual intercourse at age 13
  • 16.2% of males and 15.5% of females reported first having had sexual intercourse at age 14
  • 20.4% of males and 33.6% of females reported first having had sexual intercourse at/or between ages 15 and 16
  • 3.3% of males and 8.6% of females reported first having had sexual intercourse at age 17 or later
  • 20.3% of male participants and 13.2% of female participants reported having had three to four lifetime sexual partners
  • 30% of males and 44.8% of females reported having had two sexual partners in the three months preceding the study

Setting at Last Sexual Encounter

  • 43% of males and 27.9% of females reported last having had sexual intercourse in their own homes
  • 30.4% of males and 59% of females reported last having had sexual intercourse in their partner’s home
  • 17% of males and 5.6% of females reported last having had sexual intercourse in a friend’s home

Association of Supervision and Sexual Activity

  • 75.1% of males and 59.4% of females left unsupervised for five or fewer hours per week reported having had sexual intercourse, compared to 87.6% of males and 72.5% of females left unsupervised 30 or more hours per week
  • 5.7% of males and 15.3% of females left unsupervised for five or fewer hours per week reported having had an STD, compared to 13.6% of males and 19.5% of females left unsupervised for 30 or more hours per week

The findings indicate that sexually active youths most often have sexual intercourse at home when left unsupervised. The researchers believe their data shows that increasing supervision for adolescents (using school and community-based after-school activities) will reduce the opportunities for all young people to engage in high-risk behaviors.

However, the authors feel that reducing opportunities for adolescents to engage in risky activities is not enough. They maintain that strong parent/child relationships can often be a young person’s best protection from participating in high-risk behaviors.

The authors suggest that the entire community work to nurture relationships between adolescents and their parents.


Reference

  1. Deborah Cohen, et al., “When and Where Do Youths Have Sex? The Potential Role of Adult Supervision,” Pediatrics, vol. 110, no. 6, December 6, 2002.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
 
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