High School Sexual Activity Declines
Special Report - June 10, 2008
Sexual risk behaviors among high school students have declined significantly in the United States since the 1990s, according to the latest Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report (YRBS) released June 4 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the YRBS is a voluntary survey of high school students in public and private schools that is conducted every two years. Students are asked a variety of health-related questions, ranging from seat belt use to sexual activity. North Carolina’s YRBS is administered by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the DHHS to public high school students throughout the state.
Nationally, the percentage of high school students who report ever having sex declined from 54.1 percent in 1991 to 47.8 percent in 2007. In addition, 35 percent of high school students reported current sexual activity (defined as sexual intercourse with at least one person in the past three months) in 2007, down from 37.5 percent in 1991. Also, the percentage of high school students reporting four or more sexual partners declined between 1991 and 2007, from 18.7 percent to 14.9 percent (up from 14.3 percent in 2005).
Since the mid-1990s, sexual activity among North Carolina high school students has declined steadily. According to the YRBS, 52.1 percent of North Carolina’s high school students reported ever having sexual intercourse in 2007, down from 57.3 percent in 1995, when the General Assembly passed legislation requiring schools to teach abstinence-until-marriage sex education. In addition, the percentage of high school students in the state to report current sexual activity dropped from 41.0 percent in 1995 to 37.5 percent in 2007 (up slightly from 37.1 percent in 2005). The proportion of North Carolina high school students to report four or more lifetime sexual partners also dropped sharply, from 23.8 percent in 1995 to 16.1 percent in 2007.
“The CDC’s latest YRBS survey is proof that abstinence until marriage education works,” said Jere Royall, legal counsel for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Despite significant declines in teen sexual activity since the passage of North Carolina’s abstinence until marriage law in 1995, abstinence opponents continue their efforts to change the law and return North Carolina to the failed and dangerous condom-based approach that was taught in our schools for over three decades.” Royall continued, “The undisputed fact is that fewer teens in North Carolina and the U.S. are sexually active today than in the early 1990s. If we want to continue to see positive trends in the lives of our young people, particularly in the area of sexual behavior, we need to continue to support and strengthen abstinence education in our schools.”
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