Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Those Kids Today

It's one of those big fears that never goes away. Kids are having sex! All over the place! All kinds of sex! Without protection! With multiple partners! Your child will turn into Juno! Except not as funny!

But it turns out that teenagers today are actually not having as much sex as they've had in previous generations, despite recent alarm about teen sex/pregnancy being on the rise. Of course, if you're a parent I'm sure you'd rather your child didn't have sex at all, maybe until he or she turned 45. So even statistics like "47.8 percent as of 2007, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, down from 54.1 percent in 1991" might not look fantastic. But even so, it goes against the recent fears about kids having more and more sex in risky situations.

That said, teens today are engaging in less "relationships" and having more casual encounters that might not lead to a full-blown relationship. Take that as you will. I think that, as long as teens are safe, that's not as much of an issue. (After all, how long do high school relationships even last?) But sometimes emotional triggers can make those encounters way more complicated--no matter how old you are.

One note I found interesting:

"The latest rise in teenage pregnancy rates is cause for concern. But it very likely reflects changing patterns in contraceptive use rather than a major change in sexual behavior. The reality is that the rate of teenage childbearing has fallen steeply since the late 1950s. The declines aren’t explained by the increasing availability of abortions: teenage abortion rates have also dropped."

Maria Kefalas, Associate Professor of Society at St. Joseph's University, claims, "This creeping up of teen pregnancy is not because so many more kids are having sex, but most likely because more kids aren’t using contraception."

Another reason why 'Abstinence Only' education doesn't work. If teens are going to have sex, they're going to have it. Better that they know about contraception and use it the right way. But again, it looks like more teens are waiting until their late teens or 20s to actually have sex anyway. Maybe because they're more aware of consequences or less inclined to feel pressured by their peers about the sex issue.

It's not exactly a turn back to Puritan values. Of course, even in previous generations that were supposedly "waiting for marriage," most people still had sex before that. So it's not like teens today are having a lot more sex anyway than their 1950's counterparts. Hopefully they just have a better sense of what sex means and how to protect themselves.