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Teens Talk About Sexuality, Relationships, Decision Making, and STDs

October 27, 2000

Decision Making: A Series of National Surveys of Teens About Sex is a new of survey "snapshots" on adolescent sexual heath issues from The Kaiser Family Foundation and Seventeen magazine. This nationally representative survey is part of a broader public information partnership: "SexSmarts: A Guide to the Head and Heart," which provides young people with information and resources on sexual health issues. Data was collected from 510 teens 12 to 17 years of age by phone interviews in June 2000.



  • When asked who they would feel strongly comfortable or somewhat comfortable talking to about sex and relationships: 84% of males and 73% of females said a boyfriend/girlfriend; 83% of males and 92% of females said a friend; 65% of males and 74% of females said a doctor or other health-care provider; 55% of males and 80% of females said their mother; and 61% of males and 27% of females said their father.

Decision Making

  • 83% of males and 89% of females reported they think that teens face a lot or some pressure when it comes to sex and relationships.

  • 41% of males and 31% of females reported that they personally face a lot or some pressure when it comes to sex and relationships.


What Influences Teens

  • When asked to tell what has had a lot or some influence over their decisions about relationships and sexual activity, 70% of males and 88% of females reported what their parents might think, 80% of males and 81% of females reported getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant, and 83% of males and 85% of females reported worrying about contracting a STD.

What Teens Think

  • 84% of males and 94% of females strongly or somewhat agree that "teens should wait to have sex until they are older."

  • 77% males and 91% of females strongly or somewhat agree that "their parents would be disappointed if they found out their teen was having sex."

  • 71% of males and 64% of females strongly or somewhat agree that "there is a lot of pressure to have sex by a certain age."

  • 44% of males and 35% of females strongly or somewhat agree that "alcohol makes having sex easier."

  • 44% of males and 31% of females strongly or somewhat agree that "oral sex is not as big a deal as sexual intercourse."

  • 33% of males and 19% of females strongly or somewhat agree that "if you are in a relationship, it is expected that you will have sex."

  • 31% of males and 17% of females strongly or somewhat agree that "sex is something that just happens."

Reasons for Having Sexual Intercourse

  • 51% of respondents 15 through 17 years of age who have had sexual intercourse said the major reason was that they met the right person, 45% said the other person wanted to, 32% said curiosity, 28% said they hoped it would make the relationship with the person closer, 16% said many of their friends had already done it, and 5% said they were drinking at the time.

Knowledge and Skills

  • 42% of males and 43% of females know the different kinds of birth control that are available.

  • 40% of males and 46% of females know where to go to get tested for STDs.

  • 32% of males and 29% of females know where to go to get birth control.

  • 28% of males and 40% of females know the consequences of STDs.

  • 28% of males and 37% of females know how to talk to a girlfriend/boyfriend about what they feel comfortable doing sexually.

  • 20% of males and 31% of females know how STDs, like HIV and herpes, are spread.

Future surveys will explore teens' access to sexual health services and their attitudes and knowledge about birth control options and 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:

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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.