OK, it might not be that all those questions are answered, but one of the amazing things about sociological research is how much it can reveal about our practices, even our most intimate ones. In this case it involves analyzing patterns and practices of sexual activity by teens.

In a story titled “A Snapshot of Teen Sex,” Time Magazine provided a report on some sociological research, the goal of which they summarize this way:

researchers tried to document every romantic and sexual liaison among high school students over an 18-month period. The purpose of the research–part of the huge National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health–was to learn how sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) travel through teen populations. But what is most remarkable about the study, published recently in the American Journal of Sociology, is the accompanying chart– the first to map the sexual geography of a U.S. high school.

Unfortunately they do not provide a link to the chart online, but it is available here. There is also another summary of the research here.

Among the findings Time Magazine reports:

  • 573 out of 832 surveyed students reported at least one relationship during the previous 18 months
  • 63 couples had no outside partners
  • 288 students were linked together in a single elaborate network of liaisons
  • only about 5% were sex-only “hookups”
  • the average age of sexual initiation was 15 1/2

The citation for (and a link to) the original AJS article is here: Bearman, Peter S, James Moody and Katherine Stovel. 2004. “Chains of Affection: The Structure of Adolescent Romantic and Sexual Networks.” American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 110, N1: 44-91.