Teens Having Less Sex, More Likely to Practice Safer Sex

Teen couple sitting by the lakeTeens are having less sex today than teens in previous generations, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Health Statistics Reports. The report also found teens who do have sex use contraceptives more frequently than did teens in previous generations.

According to the CDC, teen pregnancy rates have fallen over the past decade. Births to teens dropped by 8% between 2014 and 2015. In 2015, there were 22.3 births per 1,000 teens ages 15-19. In 2007, the figure was 41.5, and in 1991 it was 61.8.

Changes in Teen Sexual Behavior

The study used 2011-2015 data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Researchers compared this data to previous NSFG data from 1988, 1995, 2002, and 2006-2010, as well as to the 1988 and 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males.

The 2011-2015 data included a nationally representative sample of 4,134 teenagers. Researchers conducted the interviews in person.

At the time of the interview, 42.4% of unmarried adolescent girls and 44.2% of unmarried adolescent boys said they had participated in sexual intercourse at least once. This is similar to responses in 2002 and 2006-2010, but it marks an overall decline from 1988-2015. In 1988, 60% of adolescent boys and 51% of adolescent girls said they had intercourse at least once.

More Teens Practicing Safe Sex

Contraceptive use increased among teens who reported sexual experience. In 2002, 74.5% of girls used contraceptives the first time they had sex, compared to 81% in 2011-2015. The rate for boys increased from 70.9% in 2002 to 76.8% in 2011-2015.

Condoms were the most popular contraceptives among teens. A minority of girls (5.8%) reported using a long-acting reversible contraceptive such as an intrauterine device (IUD).

Most girls (88.5%) reported they would be “a little” or “very” upset if they got pregnant. This desire not to become pregnant increased their likelihood of using contraceptives.


  1. Abma, J. C., PhD, & Martinez, G. M., PhD. (2017). Sexual activity and contraceptive use among teenagers in the United States, 2011-2015. National Health Statistics Reports,104.
  2. Birth rates (live births) per 1,000 females aged 15-19 years, by race and Hispanic ethnicity, select years. (2015, April 13). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/birth-rates-chart-2000-2011-text.htm
  3. Reproductive health: Teen pregnancy. (2017, May 9). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm

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  • Jameson

    July 24th, 2017 at 10:42 AM

    If you have teens at home like I do then you will know that there are many parents out there who see this as very welcome news! And you hope that yours are doing the things that have to be done to follow this trend.

  • Dawn

    July 24th, 2017 at 2:45 PM

    I don’t want to dismiss our parents, but overall I think that we as parents have probably done a much better job at teaching our kids about the risks associated with unsafe sex, much better than I know that my won parents did. They would have died had I ever even brought up the subject of having sex whereas I have always tried to be open and honest with my own children. I feel like if they can trust me then they know that I will not shame them, that I am there to help them out when it comes to big life issues like that.

  • clarissa

    July 26th, 2017 at 10:20 AM

    There is also greater access to information as well as contraception and even though there are pockets of society who think that this is a bad thing, I am actually grateful that there is an ease of getting relevant information as well as ease of access to birth control.

  • Gage

    July 27th, 2017 at 1:14 PM

    They may not be having intercourse but they are definitely putting pictures out there on social media platforms and that can have the same lasting detrimental effects on their lives.

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