August 11, 2003
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.
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.
08.07.03; Karen S. Peterson