Teen abstinence rate up 28 percent

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The number of American high schoolers who have never had sexual intercourse has increased by 28 percent since 1991, according to data released this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The finding was hailed by advocates of abstinence-based sexual education -- also known as Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) education -- as proof the message of delayed sexual activity is catching on with teens.

"I think this data is very clear," said Valerie Huber, president and CEO of Ascend (formerly the National Abstinence Education Association). "It confirms SRA is realistic and that it resonates with teens."

The data "also tells us that we need to be more intentional with the messages we send to teens -- and the importance of giving teens the skills to graduate high school without any of the negative consequences that can surround teen sex," Huber said in a June 14 news release. Today, many of those messages "normalize sex, especially for older students. This must change."

The CDC's 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) found 41.2 percent of high school students nationwide reported having had sexual intercourse. That's down from 54.1 percent in 1991, the first year such statistics were measured, and down from 46.8 percent in 2013.

The YRBSS data also indicated decreases over both the past 24 years and the past two years in the number of teens to have sex before age 13, the number of teens who have had sex with four or more different partners and the number of teens who currently are sexually active.

A full 69.9 percent of high schoolers are not currently sexually active -- defined as not having had sexual intercourse during the three months prior to the survey, the CDC reported.

The American College of Pediatricians, a conservative counterpart to the larger American Academy of Pediatrics, said the new data "demonstrates clearly that Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA), or sexual abstinence, is a relevant message for youth and a goal they can achieve."

"The College urges all physicians, mental health professionals, educators and legislators to join parents in promoting sexual abstinence to youth as an attainable goal that is clearly the best for children," the American College of Pediatricians said in a June 22 news release.

The data on teenage sexual abstinence was released less than two months after the CDC reported America's teen birthrate had dropped to its lowest level since record keeping began. To read BP's report on teen birthrate statistics, click here.

The full Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report is available in the June 10 edition of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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