Adolescents and the Benefits of Saving Sex for Marriage
American media saturate youth culture with sexual images, thereby desensitizing them and promoting early sexualization, as well as encouraging adolescents to make bad choices about sex. Among high school students surveyed in 2013 in the United States, 46.8% stated they have had at least one experience of sexual intercourse. In 1991, 54.1% of teens had sexual experience. It is encouraging that more adolescents today are choosing abstinence.
Most parents consider premarital sex unacceptable (based on a survey of American parents and adolescents released in August 2010 by the Department of Health and Human Services).
Many health professionals endorse the concept that teen sex is an inevitable outcome of adolescent growth and development, so their educational focus is on the anatomic and physiologic aspects of sexual health, typically without mention of the adverse consequences of adolescent sexual experimentation.
- As advocates for the health and well-being of young people, pediatricians should promote the healthiest option: sexual abstinence until marriage. Teens who are sexually abstinent avoid many physical, emotional, and financial problems and can thus devote more time and energy to academics, extracurricular activities, and pursuit of their dreams.
- Medical professionals should not give teens the impression that they can have “safe sex” by using condoms and other contraception measures, nor should they downplay the psychological injury (i.e., depression, anxiety, guilt, alcohol and drug abuse, remorse) that accompanies casual sex or an abortion.
- We should partner with parents (and educate those who have chosen to believe that adolescent sexual activity is inevitable) to give a consistent message to parents and young people that abstinence is the best choice for their children’s health and well-being and is achievable. It is not simply a matter of preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The benefits of saving sex until marriage are huge. Abstinent teens are more likely than sexually active teens to: finish high school and college; have a happy marriage; not get divorced (girls who are virgins through adolescence are about half as likely to divorce; the divorce risk is also lowered for boys if they choose to wait); and not experience mental health problems as an adult.
Adolescent sexual activity has no lasting benefits, but many possible consequences, such as unintended pregnancy, STIs, infertility from STIs, mental health struggles (low self-esteem, guilt, depression, anxiety, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse), and increased divorce risk due to difficulty bonding with and trusting a future marital partner. Non-coital behaviors such as oral sex, anal sex, and mutual masturbation are often not considered by teens as “sex,” yet these behaviors can also affect adolescents negatively both physically and mentally.
Teen sexual activity adds nothing to healthy adolescent development and has major costs, both to the individual and to society. Abstinent behavior can save society billions of dollars that are used to treat STIs and provide welfare support for young, unmarried parents as well as for care of their infants, who are more likely to have developmental and behavioral difficulties.
Do you know the N.I.C.E. way to say “No?”
N – N is for No. No” is said with a firm and low voice. “No” is said with a firm look. No” is said while looking the other person directly in the eyes. Not “I don’t think so” or “not now,” which shows weakness
I – is for an “I” statement. (“I don’t go with strangers” or “I don’t drink because …”)
C – is for a change of plans, people, or topics. (“I need to check with Julia over there about tomorrow’s game” or “I’m feeling sick to my stomach” or “How ‘bout those Cardinals?”)
E – E is for “Exit.” Each teen always needs a safe way home.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual risk behavior: HIV, STD, & teen pregnancy prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/sexualbehaviors/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in the prevalence of sexual behaviors and HIV testing, national YRBS: 1991-2013. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/trends/us_sexual_trend_yrbs.pdf
- American College of Pediatricians position statement, “Abstinence Education,” http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/sexuality-issues/abstinence-education
- Flying High: Helping Teens Choose Abstinence by Douglas Abbott and Joseph White (https://www.amazon.com/Flying-High-Helping-Choose-Abstinence/dp/1932597700/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466428749&sr=8-1&keywords=book%3A+%E2%80%A2%09Flying+High%3A+Helping+Teens+Choose+Abstinence
- Your Kids at Risk: How Teen Sex Threatens Our Sons and Daughters by Meg Meeker, MD (https://www.amazon.com/Your-Kids-Risk-Threatens-Daughters-ebook/dp/B00AXS5EAA/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466428795&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=book%3A+%E2%80%A2%09%E2%80%A2%09Your+Kids+At+at+Risk%3A+How+Teen+Sex+Threatens+Our+Sons+and+Daughters+by+Meg+Meeker%2C+MD)
- Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children by Joe McIlhaney Jr. and Freda Bush (http://store.medinstitute.org/hooked )
- God’s Design for Sex series by Carolyn Nystrom (series of four books for kids/teens, each targeted to a different age group) (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=%E2%80%A2%09God%E2%80%99s+Design+for+Sex+series+by+Carolyn+Nystrom+ )
- Handout: Strategies for Parents of Teens (https://www.acpeds.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Strategies-for-parents-of-teens1.pdf)
- Handout: Strategies for Teens (https://www.acpeds.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Strategies-for-teens31.pdf)
- Handout: How Far is Too Far? (https://www.acpeds.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/HOW-FAR-IS-TOO-FAR-1.pdf)
- Handout: Facts About Cohabitation for Teens and Young Adults (http://www.acpeds.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Cohabitation-handout-for-teens-and-young-adults.pdf)