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10.15.2008

Teen Sex

That may be the most shocking title this blog has ever had, but equally shocking and encouraging is the new research published by The Heritage Foundation on Parents and Teenage Sex. There are few other topics—save the choice we make about God—that have such lasting impact than our sexual activity.

I encourage you students, parents, and youth ministers alike to read the full study here. I'll summarize a few of the points I found troubling and helpful:

On Sexual Activity:

  • Almost 2/3 of high school seniors have engaged in sexual activity. (That goes beyond sexual intercourse.)
  • 2 out of 3 teenagers that had sex said that they regretted the decision and with they would have waited longer. (Wow!)
On Consequences:
  • The chance of getting an STD doubled for those engaging in sexual activity at age 13.
  • Sexually active teen girls are 3 times as likely to become single mothers and 40% of those will give birth outside of marriage.
  • Sexually active adolescents are half as likely to be in a stable marriage.
  • Mothers who began sexual activity at ages 13 or 14 were more than twice as likely to live in poverty.
On Parental Influence:
  • When asked "Who is the most influential regarding your decisions about sex?" (depending on the age breakdown within teenagers) 39%-59% said parents. Only 5%-8% said religious leaders. (Wow! I can say a lot as a youth worker, but the most influential person in a teens life is their parent! Parents...I'm praying for you!)
  • Parental factors that appear to offer protection against the onset of early sexual activity include: intact family structure, parents' disapproval of adolescent sex, teen's sense of belonging to and satisfaction with their families, parental monitoring, and to a lesser extent, parent-child communication about teen sex and it's consequences. (They say to a lesser extent because those parents who exert "excessive or coercive" control might lead to negative outcomes.)
  • Parent-child connectedness is measured by the level of satisfaction parents & teens feel in their relationship, the amount of warmth, love, affection, and the level of parental involvement in their children's lives.
On What a Parent Can Do:
  • Avoid sending ambiguous and mixed message about teen sex.
  • Convey clearly to their teens their values on this subject.
  • Focus on imparting clearly defined values. Simply discussing sex does not necessarily protect teens.
  • Seek to strengthen their relationships with their teenage children.
We certainly have a difficult job to do as parents and youth workers, especially when you factor in the extent at which our culture at large give us freedom to do and explore whatever we want. We no doubt need to bathe our actions and conversations in prayer when it comes to speaking about sex. But be encouraged at how strong your influence is in your relationship with your child!

Students have a tough task as well, facing peer pressure, cultural influences, and their own desires. Students, this article isn't just for parents. Ask yourself, "How is my relationship with my parents?...What do they really think about all this?...Do I listen to wise advice and consider the consequences before taking action?"

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