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Study Examines How Teenagers View First-Time Sex; Most Described the Relationship as "Romantic"

August 11, 2003

This article is part of The Body PRO's archive. Because it contains information that may no longer be accurate, this article should only be considered a historical document.

Looking back on the first time they had intercourse, 85 percent of sexually active teens viewed their relationship as a "romantic" involvement rather than a casual fling, says a study from Child Trends, a group that researches children and families. The project is intended to help parents and educators understand the dynamics of teen relationships and not just focus on statistics.

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.

About 25 percent of the teens experienced some form of abuse in their first relationship. Verbal abuse included name-calling and insults; physical abuse included throwing objects, pushing and shoving. Hispanics were the most likely to experience physical abuse.

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.

Back to other news for August 11, 2003

Adapted from:
USA Today
08.07.03; Karen S. Peterson

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.


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