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Teens Talk About Safer Sex, Condoms, and "the Pill"

December 15, 2000

Safer Sex, Condoms, and "The Pill" is the second in a series of "snapshots" on adolescent sexual health issues from The Kaiser Family Foundation and Seventeen magazine. This nationally representative survey is part of a broader public health information partnership: SexSmarts: A Guide to the Head and Heart.

Data was collected from 510 teens 12 to 17 years of age through phone interviews in September 2000. Questions on personal sexual experience were only asked of respondents between the ages of 15 to 17.

Results

Sexual Behavior/Contraception Use

  • 38% of teens reported ever having had sexual intercourse.
  • 89% of teens who've had intercourse reported using birth control or protection "all of the time," "most of the time," or "some of the time."
  • 98% of teens who've had intercourse reported ever using condoms, 50% reported ever using withdrawal, 39% reported ever using birth control pills, and 13% reported ever using the rhythm or calendar method.
  • 47% of teens reported ever having had sexual intercourse without a condom.

Safer Sex Knowledge

  • 88% of both males and females reported having heard the expression "safe sex."
  • 82% of males and 90% of females reported that not having sex or abstinence (defined as not having sex) is "safe sex."
  • 76% of males and 68% of females reported that using a condom when having sexual intercourse is "safe sex."
  • 49% of males and 43% of females reported that using birth control pills when having sexual intercourse is "safe sex."
  • 24% of males and 19% of females reported that oral sex is "safe sex."

Contraception Knowledge

  • 83% of males and 77% of females reported that condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy; 75% of males and 60% of females said condoms are effective in preventing HIV/AIDS; and 62% of males and 56% of females said condoms are effective in preventing STDs.
  • 77% of males and 80% of females reported that birth control pills are effective in preventing pregnancy; 24% of males and 18% of females said pills are effective in preventing STDs; and 22% of males and 21% of females said pills are effective in preventing HIV/AIDS.
  • 56% of males and 45% of females think that it is true that "teens need their parents' permission to get birth control pills"; 33% of males and 33% of females think that it is true that "if a condom breaks, there is a pill you can take afterwards to prevent pregnancy"; and 28% of males and 19% of females think it is true that "teens need their parents' permission to get condoms."

What Teens Think

  • 56% of both males and females strongly or somewhat agree that "having sex without a condom every now and then is not that big of a deal."
  • 54% of males and 57% of females strongly or somewhat agree that it's embarrassing to go to a store to buy condoms.
  • 38% of males and 39% of females strongly or somewhat agree that it's unhealthy for girls to use birth control pills.
  • 19% of males and 11% of females strongly or somewhat agree that condoms break so often they are not worth using.
  • 16% of males and 16% of females strongly or somewhat agree that condoms are too much trouble to use.
  • 7% of males and 11% of females strongly or somewhat agree that if "you don't have a lot of partners you don't need to use condoms."

Top Priority When Choosing Contraception

Teens were asked to identify important factors in choosing a method of birth control or protection:

  • 91% of males and 94% of females reported "how well it prevents pregnancy."
  • 89% of males and 88% of females reported "how well it protects against HIV/AIDS and other STDs."
  • 84% of males and 84% of females reported "what my partner wants to use."
  • 70% of males and 79% of females reported "it is easy to get."
  • 63% of males and 66% of females reported "my parents not finding out."

What Teens Think About Using Condoms

Teens were asked how they would feel if their partner suggested using a condom:

  • 87% of males and 91% of females would feel glad.
  • 85% of males and 90% of females would feel that their partner respected them.
  • 85% of males and 86% of females would feel relieved.
  • 84% of males and 85% of females would feel that their partner cared about them.
  • 62% of males and 70% of females would feel suspicious or worried about their partner's past sexual history.
  • 50% of males and 48% of females would feel that their partner was suspicious or worried about their past sexual history.

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The SexSmarts survey results will appear in the January issue of Seventeen magazine. Future surveys will explore teen's access to sexual health services and their attitudes about STDs.

For more information:

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2400 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025; Phone: 650/854-9400; Fax: 650/854-4800; Web site: http://www.kff.org or contact their Publication Request Line: 800/656-4533 publication #3081. SexSmarts monthly columns and other consumer education resources are available at http://www.seventeen.com

Resources

Adolescent Reproductive Health: Navigating Between Needs and Services is a report published by Family Health International (FHI) that summarizes 20 years of experience in adolescent reproductive health.

This report offers highlights of key projects and addresses common, cross-cutting themes that have emerged. It also discusses problems, challenges, and solutions in ongoing commitment to improve the quality of adolescent reproductive health.

FHI has supported more than 70 projects on adolescent reproductive health falling primarily into five categories:

  • Assessing the gap between reproductive health knowledge and behavior
  • Improving attitudes about reproductive health
  • Reaching youth through schools and families
  • Reaching youth through community programs
  • Reaching youth through services

The goal of this report is to provide insight from FHI's research, education, and service programs. In addition, the report contains recommendations to improve policies, strengthen programs, and provide better options for safeguarding the reproductive health of young people worldwide.

For more information:
Family Health International (FHI)
P.O. Box 13950
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Phone: 919/544-7040
Fax: 919/544-7261
Web site: http://www.fhi.org
E-mail: publications@fhi.org



  
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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.
 
See Also
More Statistics on Young People and HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

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