August 11, 2003
The study hopes to put adults "in a better position to help teenagers make more responsible decisions about sex," says the report, "The First Times: Characteristics of Teens' First Sexual Relationships."
The study analyzed data on 1,909 sexually active teens in grades seven through 12 tracked in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, partially funded by the federal government. While the teens were interviewed in the mid-1990s, the findings are the most recent data available, said study coauthor Suzanne Ryan.
More than half (61 percent) of those who said they had a romantic relationship had intercourse within three months. "The important message to parents is these romantic relationships transition to sex early on, and they have a small window of opportunity" to influence teens' behavior, said Ryan. Some teens will choose abstinence, but others will not. Parents can talk with them about delaying sex or using contraception, the report says.
Such findings "show parents and educators need to talk about what a relationship is, what intimacy is," said Tamara Kreinin of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. She said the research is "hugely helpful" to those planning programs for teens.
08.07.03; Karen S. Peterson