Teen Sexual Behavior

A variety of survey formats have been used to collect data on the sexual practices of teens. Not only does this information help to track trends, but it also informs the interventions based on relevant risk and protective factors and the teen behaviors. For example, the 2007 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a survey administered in a random selection of high schools across the state, found that approximately 45% of high school students in Massachusetts reported having had sexual intercourse. Findings also indicated that students who received HIV/AIDS education were significantly less likely to report sexual behavior. The more we learn about teen sexual behavior, the more effective programs and services can be tailored to impact the teens’ sexual decision-making.

2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

The 2007 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) Executive Summary was released with some positive news about teen sexual behaviors:

  • The percentage of high school students in 2007 who had ever had sexual intercourse declined by 12% since 1991, while condom use increased by 33%.
  • According to the 2007 YRBS, among sexually active teens there has been a decrease in alcohol and drug use leading to intercourse (31% to 24.6%)
  • The percentage of high school students in 2007 who were currently sexually active declined by 7%, and the percentage of those who had had intercourse with four or more partners declined by 20% in comparison to 1991.

HIV/AIDS Education Linked to Fewer Risk Behaviors

The 2007 YRBS results indicate that every sexual risk behavior was lower among students who had received school HIV/AIDS education than among those who had not.

  • In Massachusetts 88.5% of high school students have received HIV/AIDS education in school.
  • Half (50%) of all students have been taught in school how to use a condom.
  • Among sexually active students, those who have been taught how to use a condom were significantly more likely to report using one.
  • Slightly over half of all students (52%) reported having had a discussion in the past year with their parents or another family adult about sexuality or how to prevent HIV, STDs, or pregnancy.

Other Results1

  • 44.4% of students reported having had sexual intercourse during their lifetimes compared to the national percentage of 47.8%.
  • About one third (32.7 %) reported having had intercourse in the past three months.
  • 12.3 % reported having had four or more sexual partners.
  • Adolescents ages 15-24 account for nearly 50% of all sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses each year.
  • 73 percent of young teens say they’ve had a helpful with their parents in regards to sex.

Where and When Teens First Have Sex

According to a study done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy,2 teens are having sex in familiar places:

  • Over 40% of teens who are having sex are doing so between 3 pm and 10pm.
  • They are having intercourse mostly at their family home or their partner’s family home.
  • Only 4% are having sex in a car, truck or park and 3% in a hotel or motel.
  • More than half of 16-18 year olds (56%) are having sex either in their family’s home or their partner’s family home.
  • 73% of adolescents are having sex by the age of 19.

Sexual Behavior of Young Adolescents

In 2007, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Unplanned Pregnancy released a report documenting the sexual behavior of younger teenagers.3 Science Says: The Sexual Behavior of Young Adolescents indicates that:

  • About one in seven teens have had sex before their 15th birthday.
  • One in seven sexually experienced young teens (aged 14 and younger) gets pregnant each year, resulting in 17,000 pregnancies and approximately 7,000 births.
  • More than one-third (35 percent) of teen girls who had sex before age 15, did not use any contraception the first time they had sex.
  • Approximately eight in ten teen girls and one in three teen boys who had sex at age 14 or younger report that they either didn’t really want to have sex at the time, or had mixed feelings about having sex at the time.
  • Teens that have older partners (two or more years older) are much more likely to be in a relationship that includes sexual intercourse compared to teens that date someone around their own age.
  • three in ten teen boys (31 %) and one quarter of teen girls (24 %) who first had sex before the age of 15 report that they had already had 7 or more sexual partners.

For national statistics on teen sexual behavior, please see Advocates for Youth: Adolescent Sexual Behavior.