Although there are many risks for teens who engage in sexual activity, the rate of adolescents who are sexually active has gone down in the past two decades. However, even though there are a number of campaigns educating teens on sexual health, recent data indicates that the rates of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) are high among young adults and high for the US compared to other developed nations.
Sex is a topic that continues to be taboo. Perhaps its forbidden nature promotes some teens becoming secretly obsessed with porn, excessive sexual activity, and fantasy. At the same time, the fact that sex is taboo can make it challenging to talk to teens about it, especially if there are already signs of sexual activity, pregnancy, and sex addiction.
According to the Sexual Recovery Institute, 40 percent of adults who are now in recovery for sex addiction began in their adolescence. Research indicates that individuals addicted to sex often come from families in which there was abuse. Specifically, one study indicated that 82% of sexually addicted adults were sexually abused as children. According to Steve Sussman of the University of Southern California at Alhambra, sex addiction is a pattern of sexual behavior that is initially pleasurable but becomes unfulfilling, self-destructive, and that a person is unable to stop. Along with this is the experience of sexual compulsivity, which is the repetitive sexual behavior attempted to achieve a desired psychological state that results in negative consequences for the sexually addicted teen.
Of course, one negative consequence is acquiring an STD. Compared to older adults, sexually active teens and young adults are at higher risk for acquiring STD’s. Teens make up about 25% of the sexually active population and they account for close to half of the new STD cases. For instance, female teens between the ages of 15 to 19 had the largest number of cases of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in 2011 of any other age group. One study revealed that 37% of young men and 70% of young women had an STD within the past year.
Another negative consequence for female teens is pregnancy. A recent study, published in the March issue of Pediatrics, shows that female adolescents who already have a mental illness are more likely to become pregnant than teenage girls without a mental health diagnosis. Also, although the number of teenage pregnancies has significantly decreased in recent years, they have not gone down with those adolescents who have a diagnosis.
Yet, overall, the number of teen pregnancies in the United States has declined significantly over the last 20 years. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the teen pregnancy rate has been falling by half since 1991. Nonetheless, the numbers are still high. Research indicates that one in every seven female teens will have a child before the age of 20. In general, the birth rate for girls between the ages of 15-19 is 29 per every 1000.
Fortunately, there are some teens who are taking precautionary measures. Research indicates that 53% of females and 45% of males talk about contraception and/or STD’s with their partner before their first sexual experience. Another study revealed that 67% of high school males and 54% of high school females said they used a condom during their last sexual experience.
Statistics show that there is still work to do in educating American teens and young adults. However, if you are a parent or caregiver and you see that your teen is experimenting with sex and showing the signs of an obsession, getting treatment is important! Excessive sexual activity can lead to unexpected pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and the intensifying of any unresolved emotions. Seeking professional mental health treatment is important if the above signs are evident.
March 28, 2013. Sexual Health of Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved on July 24, 2014 from: http://kff.org/womens-health-policy/fact-sheet/sexual-health-of-adolescents-and-young-adults-in-the-united-states/
By Robert Hunt
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