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Dating

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 1991–2015.This change was also significant between 2013 (47 percent) and 2015 (41 percent).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. (2016). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(6). Retrieved June 16, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/ss6506_updated.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.
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on September 20, 2016