I was searching for some statistics on both age of first sexual intercourse for teens and effectiveness of absitinence education when I came across a study that provided answers to the age question  at ChildTrends.org based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics.  Written by By Elizabeth Terry-Humen, M.P.P., Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D., and Sarah Cottingham it is titled “Trends and Recent Estimates: Sexual Activity Among U.S. Teens” [pdf].

In addition to their written report, they provide a series of graphs including this one that give a sense of age at first sexual intercourse for both males and females (from p. 2):

Age of first intercourse

They also provide a graph that contrasts types of sexual contact for different racial/ethnic groups (from p. 3):

Type of sexual activity by race/ethnicity

They also contrast the number of partners teens had by gender (p. 4):

Number of partners by gender

I had also remembered recent research results about the effectiveness of abstinence only sex education programs and tracked down this recent summary from the Washington Post: “Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds.” They report that:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The study was by Janet Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins and appeared in the January 2009 issue of Pediatrics and was titled “Patient teenagers?: Virginity pledges as a marker for lower sexual activity.” She did a longitudinal study using a national sample. In her abstract she states her results this way:

Five years after the pledge, 82% of pledgers denied having ever pledged. Pledgers and matched nonpledgers did not differ in premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and anal and oral sex variables. Pledgers had 0.1 fewer past-year partners but did not differ in lifetime sexual partners and age of first sex. Fewer pledgers than matched nonpledgers used birth control and condoms in the past year and birth control at last sex.

There’s a report on the study at CNN, an interview with the author at Time,  and US News & World Reports provides a more detailed summary concluding that there were patterns among those who did remain abstinent, reporting that the study “showed that the greater sexual restraint of the pledging teens, demonstrated here and in most other studies, was not due to the pledge per se but rather other virginity-promoting factors in their backgrounds.”

The New York Times provided this graph and brief summary of earlier research  that reached a similar conclusion as part of a larger story on the topic in 2007.

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