10 Things You Should Know About the Sex Lives of American Teenagers

10 Things You Should Know About the Sex Lives of American Teenagers

Popular media articles on adolescent sexuality usually paint a portrait of the modern American teenager as hypersexual. Among other things, these articles give the impression that teens are having sex at younger and younger ages, they’re constantly hooking up and sexting, and they’re engaging in a lot of risky sexual behavior, thanks to a diet of highly sexual movies and TV shows. By contrast, scientific research on the sex lives of adolescents suggests a very different set of conclusions. Here are 10 things you should know about the sex lives of American teenagers, according to science.

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Is Same-Sex Attraction “Contagious” Within Adolescent Social Networks?

Is Same-Sex Attraction “Contagious” Within Adolescent Social Networks?

Many parents believe that homosexuality is contagious, being transmitted through social contact. In fact, some of them endeavor to keep their children away from gay and lesbian peers out of fear that their children will “catch the gay.” But is there any scientific basis for believing that this might actually be true? Not so much. According to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, although adolescents’ peers appear to hold sway over each other’s sexual and romantic behaviors, this effect does not appear to extend to same-sex attraction.

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Teen Sexting May Predict Who Has Sex, But Not Who Engages In Risky Sexual Behavior

Teen Sexting May Predict Who Has Sex, But Not Who Engages In Risky Sexual Behavior

A number of research studies have emerged in the last few years reporting a link between sexting and sexual behavior among teenagers. However, the inherent weakness of this body of research is that most of these studies involved surveying teens at one point in time and asking about both sexting and sexual behavior, which makes it impossible to know which one came first. That is, does sexting increase the odds of future sexual activity, or is it just the case that being sexually active predisposes teens to sexting? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics provides our first clue to this “chicken and egg” question by analyzing data from a longitudinal study of teen sexting.

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Doctors Spend Just 36 Seconds Talking To Teens About Sex During A Typical Visit

Doctors Spend Just 36 Seconds Talking To Teens About Sex During A Typical Visit

Although most teenagers in the United States receive some form of sex education in school, teens have no guarantee of receiving comprehensive or reliable information about contraception, safe sex, or STIs from their teachers. For example, it is well documented that many abstinence-only programs not only teach outright falsehoods about condoms and birth control, but they completely fail to address the sexual health needs of LGBT youth [1]. Compounding this problem is the fact that many parents are reluctant to talk to their kids about anything related to sex at all. So if teens can’t get the information they need about sex at home or at school, surely they can at least get it from their physicians, right? Not necessarily. A new study finds that sexual communication is compromised even inside the confines of the doctor’s office.

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How Many Kids Today Are Sexting?

How Many Kids Today Are Sexting?

Numerous media reports have appeared recently suggesting that there has been an “explosion” of sexting behavior among adolescents, which is just the latest in a string of claims about the hypersexual nature of today’s youth. These reports claim that kids are increasingly taking and sharing nude photos of themselves with their smartphones, webcams, and applications like Snapchat, which allows users to upload photos that are only visible to other users for 10 seconds (unless, of course, another user takes a screenshot on their end). But just how common is this behavior? Is it actually becoming normative for kids to share naked photos online? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that while adolescent sexting is indeed a problematic behavior on multiple levels, it isn’t nearly as common as we’ve been led to believe.

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Is Sexual Content In Movies Related To Sexual Risk Taking?

Over the past two decades, sexual content in the movies and on television has become more explicit than ever before. These graphic depictions of sex have become a source of social concern for many parents, who worry that the increased visibility of sex in the media may lead adolescent viewers to imitate the behaviors they see on screen. This concern is compounded by the fact that most media depictions of sex portray it in risky and unrealistic terms. For example, an analysis of sexual content from the most popular movies released between 1983 and 2003 revealed that the vast majority of sex acts depicted (70%) occurred among people who had just met, and almost every scene (98%) failed to address the topic of contraception in any way.1 Not only that, but virtually none of these sexual acts resulted in negative consequences (e.g., unintended pregnancies, STIs, etc.). So is parents' concern warranted? Do such media depictions of sex have the potential to generate risky sexual behaviors among adolescents? A recent study published in Psychological Science suggests that they might.
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Just How Sexually Active Are Adolescents Today?

Media headlines have been abuzz lately with reports of kids having sex at younger and younger ages. Perhaps you heard about the four Louisiana fifth-graders who made national news when it was discovered that they had sex at school in an unsupervised classroom. Or perhaps you read about the lawsuit filed against a California preschool when it was discovered that two 5-year-old girls performed fellatio on a male classmate and the teacher failed to stop it. Is sexual activity among kids really as rampant as these and other media reports suggest? According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, perhaps not.
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Are Sexually Active Teenagers At Greater Risk For Depression? "Yes," Say Hamsters

I recently read an article entitled Teen Sex May Affect Brain Development, which suggested that sexually active adolescents may have an elevated risk of mood disorders compared to their peers who remain abstinent. Several prominent news sites have run similar stories in recent days. This got me wondering whether there was anything to this idea. Are sexually active teenagers really more prone to psychological problems? My analysis of the research in this area suggests that this is not the case.
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