A federal survey revealed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday shows that sexually active teenagers are using condoms more often, but inconsistently.
The survey was based on in-person interviews with 4,662 never-married teens ages 15-19 collected by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2006-2010 for its National Survey of Family Growth. Of the 2,284 girls and 2,378 boys surveyed, 43% of girls said they had had sexual intercourse, compared to 51% in 1988. Among boys, 42% in the new survey said they had had intercourse, compared to 60% in 1988.
It revealed that percentage of teen boys using condoms the first time they had sex was 80%, from 71% in 2002. The responses show high rates of contraceptive use among both sexes the first time they have intercourse (78% of girls, 85% of boys) and the most recent time (86% of girls and 93% of boys). The condom was the most popular contraceptive method, cited by 96% of girls.
The percentage of black teen girls who have had sex decreased from 57% in 2002 to 46% in 2006-2010, marking the first time there were no racial or ethnic differences in the percentage of teen girls who have had intercourse. Among contraceptives used by young women, more were using a wider variety of hormonal methods than was available in earlier years; use of the pill and injectable hormonal methods haven't changed significantly since 2002 but a higher percentage said they had ever used emergency contraception (14%), the contraceptive patch (10%), and the contraceptive ring (5%).
However just 49% of girls and 66.5% of boys said they used one every time they had sex in the past four weeks. The difference between responses from girls and boys is likely because the boys ages 15-19 answer about themselves, while the girls answered about their partners, who may not be teens, says lead author Gladys Martinez, a demographer and statistician.
Amber Madison author of 2010 book Talking Sex With Your Kids, said, “People are using condoms the first time they have sex to protect from pregnancy. They're probably not using any other method.” But in a relationship, when sex is more regular, Madison says girls are more likely to be on birth control. “Because they got tested or trust their partner, they decide not to use condoms. Someone in a steady relationship is more likely to be on birth control than the first time they had sex,” she says.
John Santelli, an adolescent medicine specialist at Columbia University in New York, says the new data show “small changes in the right direction and probably explains the small decline in birth rates we're seeing.”
Overall, sexual activity among U.S. teenagers seems to be holding steady, the CDC said. Questions about oral sex will be part of a report to be issued later, Martinez says.