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March 18,2011 | The Clarion
U.S. teens, young adults 'doing it' less, study says
By Carla Johnson
Vanderbilt U. via UWIRE
Fewer teens andyoung adults are having sex, a
government survey shows, and theories abound
for why they’re doing it less.
Experts say this generation may be more
cautious than their predecessors, more aware of
sexually spread diseases. Or perhaps emphasis
on abstinence in the past decade has had some
Or maybe they’re just too busy.
“It’s not even on my radar,” said 17-year-old
Abbey King of Hinsdale, 111., a competitive
swimmer who starts her day at 5 a.m. and falls
into bed at 10:30 p.m. after swimming, school,
weight lifting, running, more swimming,
homework and a volunteer gig working with
service dogs for the disabled.
The study, released Thursday, is based on
interviews of about 5,300 young people, ages 15
to 24. It shows the proportion in that age group
who said they’d never had oral, vaginal or anal
sex rose in the past decade from 22 percent to
about 28 percent.
The findings are sure to surprise some parents
who see skin and lust in the media and worry
that sex is rampant.
“Many parents and adults look at teens and
sex and see nothing but a blur of bare midriffs.
They think things are terrible and getting
worse,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer
for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and
There are other surveys of sexual behavior, but
this is considered the largest and most reliable.
“It’s the gold standard,” Albert sad.
Health scientist Anjani Chandra of the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention described
the decline in sex as small but significant. She
declined to speculate on the reasons. It’s difficult
to look for a trend earlier than 2002 because
previous surveys did not gather as much detail
about various types of sex, she added.
However, data over the years on vaginal
intercourse among never-married adolescents
shows a steady decline since 1988. That seems
to be in sync with other CDC studies showing
an overall drop in teen pregnancy.
That the trend began in the late 1980s seems
to undermine the idea that abstinence-only sex
education — heavily emphasized during the
2001-2009 presidency of George W. Bush — is
the explanation, Albert said.
But it is possible those messages contributed,
Comprehensive sex education — which
includes abstinence but also teaches contraception
and safer sex skills — didn’t go away during the
Bush years, said Elizabeth Schroeder, executive
director of Answer, a national sex education
organization at Rutgers University.
“We have been redoubling efforts and it has
made an impact on these statistics,” Schroeder
SamDercon, a 17-year-old high school junior
from Princeton, N.J., said he’s learned to worry
about the consequences of having sex.
“I do think that sexual education is taking
away thatidea that you are invincible,” said
Dercon, who is also a contributing writer to
www.sexetc.org, a project of Rutgers-based
“There’s always that fear of something going
wrong with consequences that could screw up
your future,” he said.
The leading influence on sexual activity
among young adults is what parents teach and
what peers are doing, experts said. And for
whatever reason, smaller proportions are “doing
if’ than in the past.
King, the busy Illinois teen, said she broke up
see 'Doing it' page 4
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