Family Fact of the Week: Teens Are Putting Off Sexual Activity
Leslie Ford /
A recent report by the Guttmacher Institute reveals that more teens are choosing to delay sexual activity.
The median age for first sexual intercourse is approaching 18 years of age for those born in 1991. The median age for those born in 1978 was 17 years of age.
Now, less than 6 percent of all teens have had sex by their 15th birthday. This is a substantial drop from the 13 percent figure reported last year.
The rise in the median age of first sexual activity mirrors the fact that half of all high school students are currently abstinent.
At the same time, teen fatherhood dropped 36 percent between 1991 and 2010. This signals good news for the next generation of adults.
Teen girls benefit most when they choose to delay sexual activity. Women are most vulnerable to the negative outcomes tied to early sexual activity. There are statistically significant differences between women who begin sexual activity at age 13 or 14 and those who begin at age 20 or 21. Those who delay sexual activity avoid being among the almost 750,000 (7 percent) U.S. women ages 15–19 who become pregnant every year. Those teen girls who begin sexual activity at age 14 are more likely to give birth outside marriage and become single parents.
Choosing to begin sexual activity at a later age also lowers the chance that women will seek abortions. Nearly 30 percent of women who started sexual activity at ages 13 or 14 have had an abortion. By contrast, only 12 percent of women who began sexual activity in their early 20s have had an abortion.
The positive effects of teens delaying sexual activity carry even into their later relationships. Women are twice as likely as likely to be in stable marriages in their 30s when they postpone their first sexual activity.
Teens delaying sexual activity are making a positive step toward their futures—and that is something to be encouraged. The first place that teens are influenced is at home. Studies have shown that teens who regularly spend time with their parents and discuss the consequences of sexual activity are less likely to have sex.
Policymakers and educators also have a role to play. Sexual risk avoidance programs have been shown to have a positive influence on teens’ decisions to delay sexual initiation.
To learn more about the role of family and educators in maintaining limited government and civil society in America, visit FamilyFacts.org.