Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 4.4 Number of Sexual Partners

01/01/2000

The greater the number of sexual partners a person has, the greater the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. While trend data on the sexual behavior of teens are limited, one study indicates that the proportion of sexually active females living in metropolitan areas who have had six or more sexual partners doubled from 1971 to 1988.75

Differences by Gender. Male youth generally report a higher number of sexual partners than do female youth. In 1995, 6 percent of sexually active males and 3 percent of sexually active females ages 15 through 19 reported having five or more sexual partners in a year. The number of sexual partners per year among sexually active females is concentrated at the lower end of the scale, with either zero or one partners most likely to be reported (see Table SD 4.4.A). Among high school students surveyed in 1999, 19 percent of males reported having had four or more sexual partners in their lifetime, compared with 13 percent of female students (see Table SD 4.4.B).

Differences by Race.76 Black high school students are more likely to report having had four or more sexual partners in their lifetime than their white or Hispanic peers: 34 percent versus 12 and 16 percent, respectively, in 1999 (see Table SD 4.4.B).

Differences by Age at First Intercourse. Age at first intercourse has a strong association with the number of sexual partners a person has over a lifetime (see Table SD 4.4.C). Among teens who were age 20 in 1992, 74 percent of males who had sexual intercourse at age 14 or younger had six or more partners during their lifetime, compared with 48 percent of those who initiated sex at age 15 or 16, and 10 percent of those who did not have intercourse until age 17 or older. A similar pattern exists for females (see Figure SD 4.4).

 

75 Kost, K., Forrest, J.D. 1992. American Women's Sexual Behavior and Exposure to Risk of Sexually Transmitted Disease. Family Planning Perspectives 24 (6): 244-254. Based on data from the National Surveys of Young Women (1971, 1976, and 1979) and the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth.
76 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

 

Table SD 4.4.A Percentage distribution of number of sexual partners in a year among sexually active teens ages 15 through 19 in the United States, by gender: 1995

  0 Partners 1 Partner 2 Partners 3-4 Partners 5 or more Partners
Males 10 44 26 14 6
Females 8 62 17 10 3

Source: Analyses of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, Cycle 5, by Child Trends; also Sonenstein, et al., 1997, pp. 16 and 17.

 

Table SD 4.4.B Percentage of students in grades 9 through 12 in the United States who reported having four or more sex partners during lifetime, by gender, grade, and race and Hispanic origin: 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999

  1993 1995 1997 1999
  Total Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female
Total 19 22 15 18 21 14 16 18 14 16 19 13
Grade
Ninth 11 15 6 13 18 7 12 16 8 12 16 8
Tenth 16 19 13 16 20 11 14 16 12 16 21 10
Eleventh 20 23 16 19 21 17 17 17 16 17 19 15
Twelfth 27 31 23 23 25 21 21 21 21 21 21 21
Race and Hispanic originb
White 14 15 13 14 15 13 12 11 12 12 12 13
Black 43 59 27 36 52 22 39 53 25 34 48 21
Hispanic 19 26 11 18 24 12 16 20 10 17 23 11

a Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Sources: Data for 1993: Kann, et al., 1995, Table 20; data for 1995: Kann, et al., 1996, Table 26; data for 1997: Kann, et al., 1998, Table 26.

 

Table SD 4.4.C Percentage distribution of number of lifetime sexual partners among sexually active 20-year-olds by age at first intercourse and by gender: 1992

  First intercourse
at age 14 or Younger
First intercourse
at age 15 or 16
First intercourse
at age 17 or older
Males
1 partner 2 9 42
2 or 3 partners 10 27 30
4 or 5 partners 15 16 19
6 or more partners 74 48 10
Females
1 partner 2 10 45
2 or 3 partners 26 28 33
4 or 5 partners 16 28 13
6 or more partners 57 34 10

Note: Percents may not sum to 100 due to rounding.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1992 National Health Interview Survey—Youth Risk Behavior Supplement. Tabulations by Child Trends.

 

Figure SD 4.4 Percentage of sexually active 20-year-olds in the United States with six or more lifetime sexual partners, by age at first intercourse: 1992

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1992 National Health Interview Survey—Youth Risk Behavior Supplement. Tabulations by Child Trends.

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