Teens Report Pressure to Have Unprotected Sex
NEW YORK, Mar 08 (Reuters Health) -- Nearly half of US teens say pressure from a partner has led them to engage in unprotected sex, according to a new survey conducted by Washington, DC-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. A majority of teens also cited drug and alcohol use as the leading reasons why young people forego condoms or other contraception during sex.
Campaign director Sarah Brown calls the survey results "a red flag," and believes that Americans "should redouble our efforts to let adolescents know that delaying sex is the best option." For teens who do have sex, she said, "we must convince them to use contraception carefully each and every time."
Recent studies have shown steady declines in US teen pregnancy and birth rates over the past decade. However, little is known about contraceptive use among this age group.
To help remedy the situation, Campaign researchers examined data from three different national youth surveys including thousands of US adolescents.
Among their main findings:
-- By 1995, nearly half (49.5%) of young white teens aged 15 to 19 said they had had sex at least once, down slightly from 52.4% in 1988. Hispanic and black teens had sex at somewhat higher rates (55% and 59.5%, respectively). Overall, girls were less likely to have had sex than boys (50% versus 55%, respectively).
-- An "overwhelming majority" (88%) of all teens interviewed believe "it is important to use birth control each and every time they have sex," according to the Campaign researchers. However...
-- 3 out of 10 teen girls interviewed said they used no form of contraception during their last reported sexual experience.
-- About half of all adolescent and teen boys and girls told interviewers that "pressure from their partners" was a factor in neglecting contraception during sex. A similar number agreed that alcohol or drug use played a major role in lack of contraception during sex.
"The teen years must be for growing up, education, and having fun -- not pregnancy and parenthood," Brown said. The nonprofit, nonpartisan National Campaign believes abstinence is a teen's best defense against unwanted pregnancy.
For those who do have sex, education remains key. According to a Campaign statement, research has shown that "teaching teens about contraception does not make them have sex."
Parental guidance is important, as well -- especially for younger teens. "Most teens have sex sporadically," the Campaign officials point out, and adolescents can be helped greatly by parental or school interventions that "encourage them to say 'no' to sex even if they've said 'yes' before."
For more information on the survey, go to the Campaign's website at www.teenpregnancy.org
SOURCE: Reuters Health
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