Teen Behavior Sex

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 62 percent of teenagers have sex by the time they reach the 12th grade (2005). Unfortunately, many sexually active teens are careless about birth control and condom use, putting them at risk for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Additionally, early sexual activity has been linked to emotional problems, such as low self-esteem and depression.

However, while teen sexual activity is risky, it doesn’t necessarily lead to emotional problems, health issues or pregnancy. Teenagers that are educated about the consequences of sexual activity may be more likely to engage in safe sex, make educated decisions about sexual partners or abstain from sex until later in life.

Why Teenagers Decide to Have Sex

Aside from hormonal urges, teenagers cite a variety of psychological reasons for deciding to have sex at a young age. Some of the more common issues raised include:

  • A belief that sex will keep their partner interested and create a lasting bond
  • A desire to feel more grown-up
  • A negative self-image combined with the belief that having sex will increase their popularity
  • Media influences, such as television programs and music videos that portray teen sex as normal and expected
  • Peer pressure.

Teenage Pregnancy

Perhaps the most widely recognized danger of underage sex is teenage pregnancy. Statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that teen birth rates in the United States may once again be on the rise after steadily declining between the years 1991 and 2005. In 2008, nearly 42 in every 1000 teenagers gave birth (2010).

Teenage mothers are at risk for a number of problems that persist into adulthood. They are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers who have children later in life. They are also at higher risk of living in poverty and tend to have lower paying jobs than their educated counterpoints that wait to have children.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Every year, nearly 4 million U.S. teens contract a sexually transmitted disease, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (2005). The majority of infected teens don’t know they have a disease and run the risk of passing it along to future partners. The long-term health effects of unknowingly contracting an STD depend on the specific disease.

Emotional Consequences of Early Sexual Activity

One of the health risks of underage sex that is often overlooked is the negative emotional impact that it can have on the teens involved. Recent surveys show that some teens, especially teenage girls, feel “used” after having sex. Some studies report a link between sexual behavior and depression, particularly if the sexual experience was not in the context of a close relationship.

Teens are transitioning into adulthood, but they are not adults. The emotional responsibilities as well as the physical responsibilities of being sexually active can be a lot to bear. Parents play an important role in educating their teens about the risks involved in teenage sex.


American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2010). US teen birth rates still highest among industrialized nations. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr05-03-10-2.cfm

Brochert, A. (2006). Sexually transmitted disease. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://uimc.discoveryhospital.com/main.php?id=3107

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Teen birth rates rose again in 2007, declined in 2008. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsTeenPregnancy/

Habib, L. (2006). Why do teens have sex? For intimacy, social status, study says. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,199540,00.html

Hitti, M. (2007). Teen sex may take emotional toll. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/06/health/webmd/main2440089.shtml

ScienceDaily LLC. (2007). Teen sex and depression study finds most teens’ mental health unaffected by nonmarital sex. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070523113756.htm

The Kaiser Family Foundation. (2005). U.S. teen sexual activity. Retrieved September 9, 2010, from http://www.kff.org/youthhivstds/upload/U-S-Teen-Sexual-Activity-Fact-Sheet.pdf