Dating and Talking to Teens about Sex

Dating during adolescence is common and can be part of healthy development.[1] However, serious and exclusive dating relationships can lead adolescents to have sex earlier than they would have otherwise.[2] Those who have sex at an early age are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.[3],[4] The prevalence of adolescents who have ever had sex significantly declined from 1991–2001 but then did not change significantly from 2001–2013.[5] Of adolescents ages 15-19 who have had sex, approximately one-third has had just one partner.[6] Among female adolescents, 16 percent have had two partners, 32 percent have had three to five partners, and 17 percent have had six or more partners.[6]  Among male adolescents, 15 percent have had two partners, 33 percent have had three to five partners, and 22 percent have had six or more partners.[6] Many adolescents are engaging in sexual behaviors other than vaginal intercourse: nearly half have had oral sex, and just over one in 10 have had anal sex.[7]

Learn more about dating and sexual relationships in adolescents:

Footnotes »

1
Child Trends. (2015). Child Trends Databank: Dating. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends. Retrieved May 4, 2016, from http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=dating.
2
Kirby, D., & Lepore, G. (2007). Sexual risk and protective factors: Factors affecting teen sexual behavior, pregnancy, childbearing and sexually transmitted disease. Washington, DC: ETR Associates and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved May 4, 2016, from http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/ea2007/protective_factors_SUM.pdf.
3
Kaplan, D.L., Jones, E.J., Olson, E.C., & Yunzal-Butler, C.B. (2013). Early age of first sex and health risk in an urban adolescent population. Journal of School Health, 83(5), 350-356.
4
Collins, W. A., Welsh, D. P., & Furman, W. C. (2009). Adolescent romantic relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 631-652.
5
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63(4). Retrieved May 4, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6304.pdf.
6
Martinez, G., Copen, C. E., & Abma, J. C. (2011). Teenagers in the United States: Sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth: National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics, 23(31). Retrieved May 4, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_031.pdf.
7
Chandra, A., Mosher, W. D., Copen, C., & Sionean, C. (2011). Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth: National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Statistics Report, 36. Retrieved May 4, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr036.pdf.
Last updated: May 04, 2016