Monday, January 26, 2009

The Myth of Rampant Teenage Promiscuity

Published: January 26, 2009

Have American teenagers gone wild?

Parents have worried for generations about changing moral values and risky behavior among young people, and the latest news seems particularly worrisome.

It came from the National Center for Health Statistics, which reported this month that births to 15- to 19-year-olds had risen for the first time in more than a decade.

And that is not the only alarm being sounded. The talk show host Tyra Banks declared a teen sex crisis last fall after her show surveyed girls about sexual behavior. A few years ago, Oprah Winfrey warned parents of a teenage oral-sex epidemic.

The news is troubling, but it’s also misleading. While some young people are clearly engaging in risky sexual behavior, a vast majority are not. The reality is that in many ways, today’s teenagers are more conservative about sex than previous generations.

Today, fewer than half of all high school students have had sex: 47.8 percent as of 2007, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, down from 54.1 percent in 1991.....

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