Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found a significant decline in the number of teens who say they’ve ever had sex, especially among African American and Hispanic youth.
According to the report, which analyzed data collected between 2005 and 2015, the number of teens in grades 9-12 who reported ever having sex declined from 46.8 percent to 41.2 percent nationwide.
A closer look at the numbers found that sexual activity among males dropped from nearly 48 percent to just 43 percent. Activity among females dropped from 46 percent to 39.
Declines were even more significant among African American teens who reported ever having sex, dropping from nearly 68 percent to 48.5. Hispanic teens dropped from 51 to 42.5 percent.
The study did not look at the potential reasons why fewer teens are having sex.
The Family Research Council (FRC) is applauding the good news and expresses hope that the “if-it-feels-good-do-it” approach of the last administration may soon be giving way to more abstinence based programs. They cite a 2016 study by the American Journal of Public Health, where researchers found that “compared with their peers, teenagers in the [government’s programs] were more likely to begin having sex… and more likely to get pregnant.”
It’s no wonder, the FRC reports. “The curriculum was so extreme that 40 percent of young people actually said they felt more pressure to engage in sex from their sex ed classes than from their boyfriends or girlfriends!”
Instead of assuming that they’ll become sexually active and throwing condoms and birth control pills at our children, we need to spend more time listening to how they really feel. In our Young Women of Grace program, we cite statistics that found 75 percent of teens believe the desire to be with someone and wanting to see a future with them is what makes a relationship serious. Only 34 percent believe sex is a defining factor. And in spite of the “friends with benefits” culture that prevails in our schools and universities, study after study has found that an overwhelming majority of youth still think having a good marriage and family is important.
We need more programs that offer encouragement and guidance to teens in these areas rather than focusing so much of our resources on teaching them how to have “safe sex.”
“Most teenagers want to be challenged to stay pure,” the FRC reports. “Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough people teaching them how. . . . It’s time to adapt our thinking, our strategies, and our public policy to an approach that makes the most sense for our kids and their future.”
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