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Teen Girls Disclose Their Reasons for Having or Not Having Sexual Intercourse

June 1, 2001

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 As a result, parts of this article may be outdated.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!

A study in the May issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health examines decision-making about sexual intercourse among adolescent girls.

Data was collected from 197 urban, adolescent girls, 14 to 21 years of age, who attended a hospital-based, general adolescent outpatient clinic between June and August 1998. Participants were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire about sexual decision-making.

Adolescent girls were asked about their sexual behavior and were then categorized by self-report as either "virgins," "currently inactive," (had no sexual intercourse in the three months prior to study) or "currently active" (had sexual intercourse in the three months prior to study).


Results

Sexual Behavior

  • Of the adolescent girls who completed the survey, 20% reported being a "virgin," 13% reported being "inactive," and 67% reported being "currently active."

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  • 53% of "virgins," 24% of "inactive," and 24% of "active" girls agreed with the statement, "I did not have sex in the past 3 months because it is against my values and beliefs."


Decisions about Sexual Intercourse

  • Respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a series of possible reasons from choosing to have or to abstain from sexual intercourse. Respondents were allowed to agree with more than one reason.


Values-Based Reasons for Not Having Sexual Intercourse

  • 82% of "virgins" and 50% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "not the right thing for me now."

  • 69% of "virgins" and 8% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "waiting until I am older."

  • 68% of "virgins" and 38% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "waiting until I am married or living with my partner."

  • 36% of "virgins" and 0% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "family would not approve."

  • 23% of "virgins" and 13% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "against my religious beliefs."

  • 8% of "virgins" and 25% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "tried it; decided it was wrong for me now."


Opportunity-Based Reasons for Not Having Sexual Intercourse

  • 33% of "virgins" and "29% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "not going out with anyone right now."

  • 7% of "virgins" and 0% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "the person I wanted to have sex with didn't want to have sex with me."

  • 3% of "virgins" and 8% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "tried it; physically did not like it."

  • 0% of "virgins" and 4% of "inactive" girls agreed with the statement "I was sexually assaulted."


Other Reasons for Not Having Sexual Intercourse

  • Five "inactive" girls gave "other" reasons for not engaging in sexual intercourse. These reasons included, "mad at my boyfriend," "partner on vacation," "pregnant," "just had a baby," and "just didn't want to."


Values-Based Reasons for Having Sexual Intercourse

  • 86% of "active" girls agreed with the statement "I like or love the person."

  • 37% of "active" girls agreed with the statement "I like having sex."


Opportunity-Based Reasons for Having Sexual Intercourse

  • 8% of "active" girls agreed with the statement "I had the chance to have sex."

  • 7% of "active" girls agreed with the statement "I wanted to know what sex would be like with the person."

  • 7% of "active" girls agreed with the statement "the person I was with wanted me to."

  • 2% of "active" girls agreed with the statement "the person would reject me if I didn't have sex."

  • 2% of "active" girls agreed with the statement "I was drunk or high."

  • 0.8% of "active" girls agreed with the statement "I was sexually assaulted."


Other Reasons for Having Sexual Intercourse

  • Five "active" girls gave "other" reasons for engaging in sexual intercourse. These reasons included, "wanted to know what it would feel like," "my choice," " I enjoy sex," "comfort," and "we wanted to."

The data indicates that urban girls, both those who have had sexual intercourse and those who have not, view their sexual behavior as based on personal (although infrequently religious) values. Many of the "virginal" urban, adolescent girls who were surveyed hold abstinence as a personal value. The sexually active adolescents perceive the decision to have sexual intercourse as being based affirmatively on their personal values rather than on the chance occurrence of opportunities to have sexual intercourse.

The authors suggest that these data may be useful in the development of new strategies for reducing urban adolescent girls' risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.

For more information: J. E. Paradise, et al., "Personal Values and Sexual Decision-Making among Virginal and Sexually Experienced Urban Adolescent Girls," Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 28, no. 5, pp. 404-9.

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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