More Teen Sex Less Pregnancy Disease And Drama

Are more teens having sex, getting pregnant, getting diseases, and suffering debilitating emotional consequences from sexual experimentation? We begin with an interesting conundrum. Teens today do report having more sex at younger ages than their parents or grandparents did (or admitted to), but today's teens appear to suffer far fewer consequences from sex than did past generations.

A trend often cited as confirming cultural degeneration is reported in the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), whose latest survey finds around 25 percent of 15 year-old girls say they have had sex at least once, compared to fewer than 5 percent in 1970.12 Among all girls age 15 to 19, the proportion affirming their own nonvirginity rose from 29 percent in 1970 to nearly half today. A small part of this increase might be due to the falling age of puberty.

Alternatively, all that maybe occurring is that today's teenagers are more likely to report on surveys that they have had sex. If you do not automatically take surveys at face value, you would find some puzzlers in this trend interesting. For example, in 1970 more than twice as many 15-year-old boys than girls that age told the NSFG they had had sex, a proportion which fell to 1.7-to-1 by 1988,1.1-to-1 in 1995, and dead even today. There are several contradictory and implausible explanations for such a trend, but the most reasonable is that boys were exaggerating and girls, at least on earlier surveys, were minimizing their experiences. To borrow from Tom Wolfe, girls' shamelessness now matches boys'.

But Pipher, Elkind, the Media Education Foundation, and other shockees immediately blamed "toxic" modern culture of salacious images luring ever-corruptible young teens to defy their wise parents to sink into unheard-of debaucheries. More plausible correlates, such as the enormous growth in divorce, extramarital sex, and unwed birth rates among adults over the last 40 years have been too uncomfortable for the pop commentariat to engage.

Yet, taking the NSFG at face value, virtually all of the growth in sex among young teens occurred during the 1970s and early 1980s. That is, it was sparked by the mothers of today's teen girls long before the advent of the post-1990 "toxic culture" blamed for sexing up modern teens. Whatever junior-high sexual revolution there was happened from 25 to 40 years ago, in an era politically dominated by the Reagan presidency and culturally dominated by videogames such as Pong and the cartoonish Super Mario Brothers and mostly-innocuous television programs led by Happy Days and The Cosby Show.

Indeed, after peaking in the late 1980s and early 1990s at around 30 percent, teen sex then declined during the 1990s and 2000s. By 2007, 25 percent of girls said they had sex before age 16. For all girls, the most recent (2009) Centers for Disease Control report points out that "the percentage of high school students who ever had sexual intercourse (i.e., sexual experience) decreased from 54.1 percent in 1991 to 47.8 percent in 2007." That is, as nearly all of the objectionable cultural trends proliferated over the last two decades, the proportion of teens having sex decreased.

The most important trend, if the NSFG figures are accurate, is that the rate of pregnancy among sexually active younger-teen girls has fallen by over 80 percent since the 1970s. That is, as the rate of sexual activity among girls age 15 and younger supposedly multiplied several-fold, the rate of pregnancies among girls that age fell by half. That trend would make the young-teen contraceptive revolution even more astounding than the so-called sexual revolution.

One fascinating development drawn from combining the best measures available, as discussed in the following chapters, is that girls' higher level of acknowledged sexual activity accompanied dramatically increased academic, job, and leadership status of young women and dramatic decreases in self-destructive behaviors. These developments all seem to be part of the larger girl revolution detailed in Chapter 7.

If more teens today have sex at younger ages, what would we expect to result? The consequences experts claim are connected to younger-teen sexual activity include more pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), exposure to sexual violence such as rape, and emotional trauma. What do real outcomes show? Just the opposite.

Table 6.1 shows the trends since 1930, around the time when the national birth registration system first became reasonably complete.14 Teen birth rates (the only outcome consistently reported) are at their lowest levels today since the first national statistics compiled 90 years ago, while pregnancy rates are at their lowest level since first reliably reported in 1973. Regardless of what teens say they do, clearly measurable outcomes from teenage sex stand at all-time lows, and the youngest teens show the biggest declines. A good case could be made that Boomer and older Generation-Xer teens had trouble with sexual activity, but younger Xers and Millennial teens have dramatically fewer outcomes.

In any case, we might as well toss sex surveys aside and deal with the outcome measures. After all, it is the outcomes that are important, not the yes/ no marks teens make on pieces of paper.

Table 6.1 Aren't Teens Getting Pregnant and Having Babies and Abortions at Younger Ages Today? NO!

Pregnancies per 1,000 teenage females by age group

Pregnancies Births Fetal loss/abortion

Year

10-14

15-19

10-14

15-19

10-14

15-19

1930

0.6

57.4

1940

0.6

53.0

1950

0.9

80.6

1955

0.9

89.9

1960

0.8

89.1

1965

0.8

70.4

1970

1.2

68.0

1973

2.9

96.1

1.3

59.3

1.6

36.8

1976

3.2

101.4

1.3

53.5

1.9

47.9

1980

3.2

110.0

1.1

53.0

2.1

57.0

1985

3.6

106.9

1.2

51.3

2.4

55.6

1990

3.5

116.3

1.4

59.9

2.1

56.4

1995

3.0

101.1

1.3

56.8

1.7

44.3

2000

2.1

84.5

0.8

47.7

1.3

36.8

2005

1.6

70.6

0.7

40.5

0.9

30.1

2006 (latest, all)

1.5

71.5

0.6

41.9

0.8

29.6

2008

0.6

41.7

(latest birth)

Change, 2006 v. 1973

-49%

-26%

- 55%

-30%

-47%

-20%

^Indicates no data are available for that year. Miscarriage rates were higher in earlier years, and illegal abortions were estimated by public health authorities at 750,000 to 2 million per year prior to legalization in 1972.

Note: The Alan Guttmacher Institute provides estimates of total pregnancies by age for 1973 through 2006. The NCHS provides estimates for 1976 through 2005. Both are shown in the table. Sources: National Center for Health Statistics (2009); Guttmacher Institute (2010), U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity. At: http://www.guttmacher.org. Births for 2008 are from just-released update: B. E. Hamilton, J. A. Martin, and S. J. Ventura (2010). Births: Preliminary Data for 2008. National Vital Statistics Reports, 58:16 (April 2010).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment