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
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
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
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
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
Back to other news for August 11, 2003
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.