Most U.S. teens have sex by 18, but pregnancies are down

January 17, 2018

More than half of American teens have had sex by age 18, but teenage pregnancy and birth rates continue to decline because of increased contraceptive use, according to a U.S. government study released in 2017 and posted on the Reuters website.

The study measured sexual activity, defined as vaginal intercourse between a female and a male, by teens aged 15 to 19 from 2011 through 2015.

Most of the 55% of teens who have had sex by 18 used some type of protection, typically a condom (80%), the study of more than 4,000 teenagers who attend U.S. public schools by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics found.

The researchers credit the more widespread use of contraception for helping to reduce the rate of births by teenagers to 22 per 1,000 females in 2015 from 62 per 1,000 in 1991

Teen pregnancy rates peaked in 1990 and have since fallen more than 50%, said Joyce Abma, a social scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics, who co-authored the report with Gladys Martinez.

The study found that among males aged 15 to 19, about 44% have had sex, down from 60 percent in 1988. For females, that rate was 42 percent in the recent study compared with 51 percent in 1988.

Among the teen females who have had sex, 74% hadintercourse for the first time with someone with whom they were “going steady,” compared with 51% of the males, the study found.

Research contact: Contact CDC–INFO

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