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Yes, Your Teenager Is Having Sex…But It’s Not That Bad

Five surprising facts all parents should know.

The thought of teenagers having sex fills many parents with fears of delinquency and doom. The reasons for these fears are familiar to all of us: STDs, unwanted pregnancy, loss of innocence and heartbreak. The reality is that most teenagers have sex, but it's not that bad! Results from the following five studies on teenage sexual behaviors may help ease some of the fears gripping parents:

It's normal: Having sex as a teenager is a normal part of human development. According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, the average age of first intercourse is around 17 years old, with approximately 70% of teenagers having had sex by age 19. Despite salacious media reports, today's teenagers are not universally having sex at a very young age. In fact, only about 13% of teens have had sex before they turned 15 years old. This is down from about 20% in 1995.

Relationships matter: Wild rainbow parties seem to be more legend than fact. More than 75% of teenage girls report their first sexual experience was with a committed, romantic partner.

Most use contraceptives: Not only are most sexually active teens in committed relationships, most are taking steps to prevent pregnancy. A high majority (87%) of teens report using contraceptives the last time they had sex. This is a dramatic increase from 1995, when only about 76.5% of teenagers reported using contraceptives. A recent statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals teen birth rates have dropped 2% between 2007 and 2008.

Social benefits: Contrary to popular belief, teens who engage in sex at an early age are not destined for a life of delinquency. A large scale study from the University of Virginia examined 534 adolescent same-sex twin pairs over seven years. By examining twins, the researchers were able to control for race and socio-economic factors. The study found that those individuals who engaged in sex at a younger age tended to have lower levels of delinquency and better social relationships in early adulthood than their peers. The researchers hypothesize that romantic relationships (involving sexual intercourse) provide teens with a sense of intimacy that protects them from engaging in delinquent acts such as vandalism, stealing and selling drugs.

It improves mood: Sex may act to alleviate teen angst. Researchers from Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard University examined adolescent mood over an extended period of time. Adolescents gauged their feelings every three hours on a hand-held computer device and a baseline was determined. The researchers found that adolescents reported a marked improvement in happiness and reduced feelings of stress and anger after sex.

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