Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 4.1 Sexually Experienced Teens

01/01/2000

Sexual experience and, particularly, age at first intercourse represent critical indicators of the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Youth who begin having sex at a younger age are exposed to these risks over a longer period of time. Because sexual intercourse during the teen years, especially first intercourse, is often unplanned,62 it is also often unprotected by contraception.63 In addition, research has shown that youth who have an early sexual experience are more likely at later ages to have more sexual partners and more frequent intercourse.64

Trends over the past several decades show that increasing proportions of teens are sexually experienced—defined as ever having had sexual intercourse (see Figure SD 4.1). However, recent data show a decline between 1995 and 1997 in the percentage of teens who have ever had sexual intercourse (see Table SD 4.1.B).

Differences by Age. Age is the most important correlate of teen sexual experience. For the 1985 through 1987 cohort (cohorts are defined as those individuals who turned 20 in the specific time period presented), just under 1 in 10 13-year-old males and only 1 in 50 13-year-old females were sexually experienced by age 13. The proportion of teen females who were sexually experienced by age 15 increased from 3 percent for the 1958-1960 cohort to 11 percent for the 1990 to 1994 cohort. By age 20 for that same age cohort, three in four females were sexually experienced. And, for the 1985-1987 cohort, four in five males were sexually experienced by age 20 (see Table SD 4.1.A). By the late teen years, most teens are sexually experienced; however, it is important to note that not all teens are sexually experienced. Among the 1990-1994 cohort of females, 45 percent had not had intercourse by age 18. Among the 1985-1987 cohort of adolescent males, more than one-third had not had intercourse by age 18 (see Table SD 4.1.A). In addition, data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a survey of 9th- through 12th-grade students show that, for 9th-grade students in 1999, 39 percent reported having had sexual intercourse. This percentage rises with each grade, reaching 65 percent by the 12th grade (see Table SD 4.1.B).65

Differences by Gender. More teen males than females reported having had intercourse by a given age. Data from the 1985-1987 cohort suggest that the proportion of teen males at each year of age who report having sex was roughly equal to the rate of sexually experienced teen females who are one year older (see Table SD 4.1.A).

Among female adolescents of all ages, the percentage who were sexually experienced has increased over time (see Table SD 4.1.A). For example, the percentage of 18-year-old females who were sexually experienced increased from 27 percent for the 1958-1960 cohort to 35
percent for the 1970-1972 cohort and to 52 percent for the 1985-1987 cohort. The proportion continued to increase to 55 percent for the 1990-1994 cohort. The percentage of male teens who were sexually experienced increased from 55 percent for the 1970-1972 cohort to
64 percent for the 1985-1987 cohort (see Table SD 4.1.A). Caution should be exercised in interpreting these differences, however, since the data for males and females come from different surveys.

Data for students from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicate that in 1999, males reported having had sex by the 9th grade at a rate 12 percentage points higher than females (45 versus 33 percent). By the 12th grade, females were as likely as males to report ever having sex (see Table SD 4.1.B). Additional survey research indicates that the percentage of teen males who have ever had sex has declined since 1988, while the use of contraception among teen males increased (1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males).66 The 1995 National Survey of Family Growth found that 50 percent of women 15 through 19 years of age had ever had intercourse, the first decline ever recorded by the periodic survey.67

Differences by Race.68 Black students in grades 9 through 12 are more likely than white and Hispanic students to have had their first sexual experience while still in high school (see Table SD 4.1.B). Specifically, in 1999,

  • 45 percent of both male and female white students reported having had sexual intercourse,
  • 63 percent of Hispanic male students and 46 percent of Hispanic female students reported having had sexual intercourse, and
  • 76 percent of black male students and 67 percent of black female students reported having had sexual intercourse.

 

62 Lowenstein, G., & Furstenberg, F.F. 1991. Is Teenage Sexual Behavior Rational? Journal of Applied Social Psychology 21 (12): 957-986. Abma, J., Driscoll, A., & Moore, K. 1998. Young Women's Degree of Control over First Intercourse: An Exploratory Analysis. Family Planning Perspectives 30 (1): 12-18.
63 Forrest, J.D., & Singh, S. 1990. The Sexual and Reproductive Behavior of American Women, 1982-1988. Family Planning Perspectives 22 (5): 206-214.
64 Koyle, P., Jensen, L., Olsen, J., & Cundick, B. 1989. Comparison of Sexual Behaviors among Adolescents Having an Early, Middle, and Late First Intercourse Experience. Youth and Society 20 (4): 461-475.
65 Direct comparison with other years is not possible, as grade in school does not accurately reflect age, and data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey include only teens in school.
66 The Urban Institute. New Data on Sexual Behaviors of Teenage Males. Fact Sheet, May 1, 1997. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute.
67 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS News. Teen Sex Down, New Study Shows. Secretary Shalala Announces New Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grant Programs. Press release, May 1, 1997. Washington, D.C.: HHS, National Center for Health Statistics.
68 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

 

Table SD 4.1.A Percentage of youth in the United States who have ever had intercourse by each age, by gender: Cohortsa age 20 in 1958-1960, 1970-1972,1985-1987, and 1990-1994

Age at first
intercourse
Females who turned age 20 in:b
1958-1960 1970-1972 1985-1987 1990-1994
13 1 0 2
14 2 1 5
15 3 4 10 11
16 8 9 21
17 16 20 36
18 27 35 52 55
19 46 53 66
20 61 68 76 75
Age at first
intercourse
Males who turned age 20 in:b
1958-1960 1970-1972 1985-1987 1990-1994
13 11 9
14 15 13
15 20 27
16 30 41
17 41 52
18 55 64
19 67 75
20 74 80

a Cohorts are defined as those individuals who turned 20 years old within the specified time period.
b Data are based on females ages 30-32 and 42-44 in the 1982 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), ages 21-23 and 36-38 in the 1988 NSFG, and ages 25-29 in the 1995 NSFG and males ages 21-23 and 36-38 in the 1991 Survey of Men.
Source: Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1994, Figures 11 and 12, pages 22-23; Abma, et al., 1997, Table 20.

 

Figure SD 4.1 Percentage of youth in the United States who have had intercourse, by age and gender: Cohort a
age 20 in 1985-1987

a Cohorts are defined as those individuals who turned 20 years old within the specified time period.
Source: Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1994.

 

Table SD 4.1.B Percentage of students grades 9 through 12 in the United States who reported ever having sexual intercourse, by gender, grade, and race and Hispanic origin: 1995,1997, and 1999

  1995 1997 1999
  Total Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female
Total 53 54 52 48 49 48 50 52 48
Grade
Ninth 37 41 32 38 42 34 39 45 33
Tenth 48 50 46 43 42 44 47 51 43
Eleventh 59 57 60 50 49 50 53 51 54
Twelfth 66 67 66 61 60 62 65 64 66
Race and Hispanic origina  
White 49 49 49 44 43 44 45 45 45
Black 73 81 67 73 80 66 71 76 67
Hispanic 58 62 53 52 58 46 54 63 46

a Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Sources: Kann et al., 1998, Table 26; Kann et al., 1996, Table 26.

 

View full report

Preview
Download

"intro.pdf" (pdf, 633.22Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"PF1.pdf" (pdf, 391.08Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"PF2.pdf" (pdf, 574.76Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"PF3.pdf" (pdf, 554.29Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"ES1.pdf" (pdf, 338.59Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"ES2.pdf" (pdf, 555.35Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"ES3.pdf" (pdf, 582.37Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"ES4.pdf" (pdf, 555.87Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"HC1.pdf" (pdf, 373.14Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"HC2.pdf" (pdf, 725.89Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"HC3.pdf" (pdf, 586.99Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"SD1.pdf" (pdf, 607.16Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"SD2.pdf" (pdf, 628.97Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"SD3.pdf" (pdf, 722.74Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"SD4.pdf" (pdf, 689.79Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"EA1.pdf" (pdf, 429.55Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"EA2.pdf" (pdf, 633.06Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"EA3.pdf" (pdf, 648.96Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"Glossary.pdf" (pdf, 291.75Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"Biblio.pdf" (pdf, 318.68Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®