October 5, 2011
A recent study conducted by Essence magazine and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that many black youths felt pressure to go further sexually than they were comfortable with. The study, Under Pressure: What African-American Teens Aren't Telling You About Sex, Love and Relationships, surveyed 1,500 black youths ages 13 to 21 to better understand their perceptions and decision-making when it came to dating, sex, parents and the media's influence.
Researchers found that teens are pressured to have sex, don't always use contraception, and listen to their peers when it comes to sex and relationships. BET reported:
... of those who have had sex, 45 percent of teens said they have been pressured to go further sexually than they wanted to and 48 percent said they lied to get out of a sexual situation. Despite the fact Black teen pregnancy in the U.S. has declined 44 percent in the past two decades -- four percent more than the national average -- Black youth admit the temptation is out there, and very real. ...
Surprisingly, teens said the pressure comes more from society (51 percent) and the media (48 percent) than it does from their partners (36 percent). Even more troubling is the use -- or apparent lack of use -- of contraception. Nine out of 10 teens reported they do not want to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy right now, but 45 percent say the use birth control inconsistently and nearly one in five (18 percent) say it doesn't matter whether they use contraception or not because "when it's your time to get pregnant, you will." Nearly half of the young women (47 percent) said they have had a pregnancy scare and 16 percent of the young men said it is likely they will get someone pregnant during their teen years. ...
More positively, parents are the most powerful influence on sex and relationships, even more than the media and friends, the teens said. Nearly half (49 percent) of 13 to 15 year olds say their parents' opinions matter most when they are deciding whether or not to have sex, however that number drops to 17 percent among those ages 19 - 21. Two thirds of youth (67 percent) believe in the power of parent/teen conversations, saying that if more teens were able to have open, honest conversations with their parents about sex, fewer teens would get pregnant.
What's also promising is that despite negative portrayals of black youth in television shows and movies, 89 percent of those surveyed still felt confident and valued by their friends, partners and parents.
While the study provides a better picture of how African-American teens view relationships and sex, it failed to address perceptions about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. This is extremely problematic given the disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS in the black community and the growing HIV rates among black youths.
Let's hope parents and educators can take the findings here and apply them toward better HIV and comprehensive sex education.
Read the full study from The National Campaign and Essence magazine here.
Warren Tong is the research editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.
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