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Teen Sex

September 16, 2005 • Volume 15, Issue 32
Do abstinence-only programs discourage teen sex?
By Jane Friedman

Introduction

Sex is a big part of teen soap operas like Fox's popular “The OC.” Two-thirds of American TV shows include some sexual content.  (Fox Broadcasting Co.)
Sex is a big part of teen soap operas like Fox's popular “The OC.” Two-thirds of American TV shows include some sexual content. (Fox Broadcasting Co.)

Teen-pregnancy rates have declined significantly since 1991. However, American teenagers have more pregnancies, births and abortions than youngsters in other industrialized countries. And 4 million teens contract a sexually transmitted disease each year. While U.S. high-schoolers increasingly are either postponing intercourse or using contraception, recent media reports highlight a potentially disturbing trend: Many middle- and high-school students say they are engaging in casual oral sex. Conservatives credit abstinence-only sex education for the pregnancy-rate decline while liberals tout comprehensive programs that promote abstinence while also providing information about contraception. The federal government only funds abstinence education, even though at least 75 percent of parents say they want teens to be taught about both abstinence and contraception. But today fewer American schools are teaching comprehensive sex education, and about a third of U.S. public high schools have switched to abstinence-only sex ed.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Sex Education
Sep. 16, 2005  Teen Sex
Jul. 10, 1998  Encouraging Teen Abstinence
Jun. 23, 1989  Sex Education: How Well Does It Work?
Aug. 28, 1981  Sex Education
Mar. 23, 1979  Teenage Pregnancy
Oct. 30, 1957  Sex Education in Schools
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Elementary and Secondary Education
Students and Social Life
Teenagers
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