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Irresponsible Teen Sexual Behavior

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Running head: Irresponsible Sexual Behaviors in Teens

Irresponsible Sexual Behaviors in Teens


Why are so many teens sexually active?  What factors drive them to this risky behavior?  Views of social acceptance, inadequate family relationships and situations of poor socioeconomic status are all contributing factors.  These factors weave an intricate web that binds them all together and lead our youth to activities that increase their morbidity and mortality.

Irresponsible Sexual Behaviors in Teens


Irresponsible sexual behavior in teens is a problem as evidenced by a 2011 survey done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  During the survey it was found that, 47.4% of high school students reported having had sexual intercourse.  [a]Of those 47.4%, 33.7% had had sexual intercourse in the past 3 months, and, of these, approximately 40% did not use a condom and 76.7% of them did not utilize any type of oral or injectable birth control method.  An alarming 15% reported having had four or more sexual partners.  In 2009, in 40 states that reported to the CDC, 8,300 young people ages 13-24 reported having human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  Nearly 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diagnosed each year and of those, nearly half are in young people ages 15-24 years old.  In 2009 more than 400,000 girls between the ages of 15-19 years old gave birth (CDC, 2012).

Contributing Factors

It is difficult to pin-point factors that have lead to these astounding statistics.  A Theory-Guided Systematic review of 69 published studies revealed that the top three indicators for this type of behavior were intention to have sex, the youths’ perception of norms and time alone with the opposite sex (Buhi & Goodson, 2007).  There is a multitude of contributing factors that influence these indicators.  The consequences are not only physical, but emotional as well.

Poverty is found to have a correlation with an early beginning to sexual activity.  In fact, poverty is seen as contributing factor to problems in many areas, which influence early onset sexual activity (Chen & Thompson, 2007).  The association of youth with peers that participate in deviant behavior, thus leading to peer-pressure can also be considered a contributing factor.  One could conclude from all of the research done on this topic that there are individual, family and community factors that contribute to this global issue (Koyama, Corliss & Santelli, 2009).

Poverty and Its Consequences

  Poverty usually leads to parents working more or searching for work thus leaving the youth unsupervised.  The lack of presence of a parental figure leads to poor parent-child relationships and poor parent-child communication, both of which are also believed to be contributing factors to youth making risky behavior choices. Not only is poverty related to early onset of sexual activity, but also to a decreased use of contraceptives leading to an earlier age at first pregnancy (Chen & Thompson, 2007).


Peers and Perceived Social Norms

Young people, who are in a less-than-desirable relationship with parents for whatever reason, are more likely to associate with peers who are engage in other deviant behaviors (Chen & Thompson, 2007).  This decision leads to an increased likelihood of involvement in risky sexual behaviors.  Peer pressure and young people’s ideas of social norms is a factor that leads to poor decision-making as well.  Youth often engage in risky behavior of all types simply to be accepted by their peers or because they think that “everyone’s doing it” or that their friends expect them to do it (Buhi & Goodson, 2007).  

Interestingly, there is an association to the choice of one’s peers with a strong family commitment and/or relationship and socioeconomic status.  This relationship between parents and youth is strained when a family is socioeconomically disadvantaged.  A strong bond coupled with a relationship where open communication about sexual health, responsible sex and avoidance of risk-taking behaviors is present is a protective factor against poor decision making.

Time alone with the opposite sex

This is a problem that is obviously solved by parental involvement in the lives of their children.  Young people who are supervised are less likely to engage in sexual intercourse and less likely to suffer the unwanted consequences of that decision.



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