Is Your Teen Ready for Sex?

Do You Have a Teenager? Then you'll be interested in knowing that:

• 1 in 7 teens has sex before they're 15. The younger they are, the more likely they are to regret it -- and to skip protection.

• The United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the Western industrialized world. One out of every three young women in America becomes pregnant before she reaches the age of 20.

• Each year, 750,000 teens become pregnant. Eight out of 10 of these pregnancies are unintended and nearly one-third end in abortion.

Is your teen ready for sex? My own view is that no teen is ready for sex, at least not until age eighteen or so. I certainly believe teens can fall in love, but I just don't think they're ready for the complicated feelings that arise in a sexual relationship, not with all the developmental challenges they're already facing. And that's not even mentioning the risks of pregnancy, STDs and AIDS.

The best way to prevent your teen from having sex prematurely? Build a great relationship with your child.

Research shows that teens who feel close to their parents are the most likely to abstain from sex as teenagers. If they do have sex, they wait until they're older, have fewer partners, and use contraception.

Research has proven that parents can influence kids to postpone sex - and to use contraception once they begin - by taking the following steps:

1. Be clear about the value of delaying sex.
2. Be clear about your expectations of your child.
3. Provide adequate supervision without being authoritarian and provoking rebellion.
4. Ask your child questions: When do you think kids are ready for sex? How do they know? Do you think sex changes things in a relationship? What if one person feels ready and one doesn't?
5. Discuss contraception.
6. Teach boys responsibility and respect for women.
7. Teach girls not to compromise their self-respect.
8. Offer support, empathy and a listening ear rather than lecturing.
9. Talking isn't enough; share activities with your child and stay connected!
10. Express your love in every way you can think of, every day.

5/8/2007 7:00:00 AM
Dr. Laura Markham
Laura Markham, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist trained at Columbia University in New York. She’s held many challenging jobs (she started and ran a weekly newspaper chain), but thinks raising children is the hardest, and most rewarding, work anyone can do.
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In biology, sex is a process of combining and mixing genetic traits, often resulting in the specialization of organisms into male and female types (or sexes). Sexual reproduction involves combining specialized cells (gametes) to form offspring that inherit traits from both parents.
Posted by sam2008
From what most males will admit, their sexual attraction to a particular female who they are in lust for, tends to drop drastically after having sex even once. In other words, it seems that after having sex, men & boys are wired to lose interest and move on to the next female prospect. If there is any truth to this, young women should ask themselves if they are an object of brief lust or an actual enduring love relationship since all will change permanently after sex. I have no idea if there is a way to test love over lust, but waiting a little longer couldn't hurt. Rox
Posted by Roxanne
Dear KJ, It is so wonderful that you have a strong relationship with your daughter and that she wants to know what you think about her decision to become sexually active. There are really three separate issues for your daughter to consider. The first is physical health. I assume she knows that she is not ready to have a baby and would protect against pregnancy, but no birth control is 100% effective. The other consideration is STDs, which are on the rise, and can cause impaired fertility and vulnerability to cancer later in life. And of course HIV rates are rising dramatically in adolescent girls. Some estimates say that every day 8000 teens in the U.S. contract a sexually transmitted disease. The second thing to consider is what changes in a relationship when two people decide to have sex. There is no question that sex complicates any relationship. Young women generally fall more in love with their partner and want to deepen the relationship, which may not be a good thing at an age when education and development of individual identity should be the top priority. Violence in adolescent relationships -- battering -- occurs in at least 10% of teen relationships (and some estimates are that it occurs in as many as 46% of teen relationships!) and the risk of it goes up when a couple becomes sexually involved, because the young man feels more "ownership" of the young woman and feels more right to assert control over her. 17 year olds have a lot to deal with and my own view is that the complications of sexual relationships are best delayed as long as possible. I know that your daughter may think she can handle these feelings, but mother nature put them there for a reason -- the survival of the human race -- and your daughter may end up being much more broken-hearted than she would have been without the relationship having become sexual. The third thing to think about is what happens emotionally and psychologically for a young woman who has sex before she's emotionally ready. The National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health asked kids about whether they were sexually active, among many other things, including their moods. A full quarter (25.3 percent) of teenage girls who are sexually active report that they are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time. By con­trast, only 7.7 percent of teen­age girls who are not sexually active report that they are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time. Thus, sexually active girls are more than three times more likely to be depressed than are girls who are not sex­ually active. A recent poll by the National Cam­paign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy asked the ques­tion, “If you have had sexual intercourse, do you wish you had waited longer?” Among those teens who reported that they had engaged in inter­course, nearly two-thirds stated that they wished they had waited longer before becoming sexually active. By contrast, only one-third of sexually active teens asserted that their commencement of sexual activity was appropriate and that they did not wish they had waited until they were older. Thus, among sexually active teens, those who regretted early sexual activity outnumbered those without such concerns by nearly two to one. This includes boys as well as girls by the way. 80% of girls regretted not waiting longer, and 60% of boys regretted it. I hope this helps in talking with your step-daughter. In the end, of course, this is her decision, and your love and support will be critical regardless of what she decides. But you should know that all the studies show that parents' attitudes make a big difference in kids' decisions about sexuality. Dr. Laura
Posted by Dr. Laura Markham
Dr. Laura, My almost 17 year old step-daughter and I have a strong parent/child relationship. She has been dating a boy for over a year and they have made a decision that they would like to become sexually active with each other. I am really struggling between my needs for her to be safe and protected - and also with a strong feeling that she is just not ready emotionally and developmentally. Our relationship allows our discussion about my worries and fears and she wants to know what I feel and think. Do you have recommendations on resources/research etc about the risks of teens having sex before they are ready developmentally? Thank you!
Posted by kj

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