Teens and Sex

March 2008

Sex, drugs, and dating make teens feel older. Television, movies, records, and advertisements give teens the illusion that these behaviors are “normal” and a mandatory part of the maturing process. Probably most commonly shown in these types of media is a constant reference to sex and sexual relationships. No matter your personal belief about teens and sex, the consequences are the same. Scientifically proven, teenagers are not physically or emotionally ready to deal with the consequences of sex.

Teens have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases of any age group. At least one in four teenage girls nationwide has a sexually transmitted disease, or more than 3 million teens1. Studies further show that teens have not reached an adult level of intellect that would allow them to make wise instead of impulsive decisions. In a review of studies, Laurence Steinberg of Temple University observes that at ages 12 to 13, only 11 percent of kids score at an average (50th percentile) adult level on tests of intellectual ability. By ages 14 to 15, the percentage has doubled to 21. By ages 16 to 17, it has doubled again to 42. After that, it levels off.

But competence isn’t just cognitive. It’s emotional, too. Steinberg reports that on tests of psychosocial maturity, kids are much slower to develop. From ages 10 to 21, only one of every four young people scores at an average adult level2. This emotional immaturity is most easily seen in teenage girls who seem to obsess over their partner. Too often, older men take advantage of this emotional immaturity and use these young girls – who often look like full grown women – for sex. A situation laws have tried to reduce by creating laws that prohibit such relationships. Parents should be aware of the emotional, physical, and legal seriousness of a teenage girl having sexual relations before the age of consent (see individual state laws for this age).

So what does this all mean? Intellectually and emotionally a sexual relationship could be damaging to your teen. And in fact, teens who begin having sex at an early age later report being forced or pressured into such relationships and too often regret their decisions.

According to the NYU Child Study Center, dating helps teens develop their identities and sense of self. However, parents are an important part of helping their child build healthy relationships while maintaining their individuality. Too often drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure cause teens to begin unhealthy, unsafe relationships leaving behind emotional and physical consequences from disease to unplanned pregnancy.

If your teen is involved in drugs, alcohol, or an unhealthy relationship the time to intervene is now. Don’t wait until the consequences of these behaviors is irreparable. If you have questions and would like to know more about how to prevent your teen from going too far call Parent help now at 1-844-247-6468.


  1. “CDC: At Least 1 in 4 Teenage Girls Has Sexually Transmitted Disease.” March 11, 2008. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,336749,00.html
  2. Saletan, William. “The Mind-Booty Problem RETHINKING THE AGE OF SEXUAL CONSENT” Sept. 27, 2007. http://www.slate.com/id/2174841/
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