I am strong because I can lift my own weight. I am smart not just because I get As. I am bold because I am not afraid to stick up for my rights.
Girls and Sexual Activity
Every year about 900,000 15- to 19-year-old women in the United States - one in ten become pregnant. 78 percent of these pregnancies are unplanned.
In 1999, 12.2 percent of live births in the United States were to mothers under the age of 20.
After a period of slight decline, the birth rate for women ages 15-19 reached a peak of 97.3 births in 1957 and has declined ever since.
The birth rate for teen women in 1999 was at an all-time low, indicating a 3 percent decline compared with the data for 1998.
The number of births to girls 10-14 years of age fell 4 percent between 1998 and 1999 to the lowest number in 30 years.
Teen birth rates have been declining in each major race and ethnicity group. Between 1991 and 1998, the birth rate for African-American young women declined by 26 percent, by 19 percent among non-Hispanic white young women, and by 12 percent for Hispanic women.
Encouraging news '- but we still have a long way to go.
Half of all 9-12th grade students (both genders) have had sexual intercourse, reflecting a decline during the last decade, from 54 percent in 1991 to 50 percent in 1999.
Among young women aged 15-19 who have had sexual intercourse, 69 percent described their first experience as 'voluntary and wanted;' 24 percent as 'voluntary but unwanted;' and 7 percent as 'non-voluntary.'Two in five teen women admit to feeling personally pressured about sex and relationships.
It is estimated that one-quarter of the drop in teenage pregnancy in the early and mid 1990s is attributable to delayed onset of sexual activity, but three-quarters is due to improved contraceptive use among sexually experienced teenagers.
The proportion of high school young women who report having sexual intercourse and multiple sex partners increases with age and varies by racial and ethnic group. Between 1991 and 1999, the prevalence of sexual experience among adolescent men and women decreased by 8 percent.
In 1997, approximately one in five sexually experienced young women in high school (18 percent) had ever been pregnant. One in four black high school young women (24 percent), one in five Hispanic young women (18 percent) and one in seven white young women (14 percent) throughout the U.S. had ever been pregnant.
In a 2000 cross-country study, the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate is shown to be at least four times the rate in France, Germany, and Japan. Currently, the U.S. rate is similar to that in the Russian Federation and several other eastern European countries, including Romania.
Even though contraceptive use is up among sexually experienced teens, young people get increasingly mixed messages about how to protect themselves.
Recent national research findings show that parents not only support 'core elements' of sex education in schools, but they also endorse covering topics such as safer sex and negotiation skills.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 12 percent more teenagers used a condom in 1999 than in 1993. Although condom use among 9-12th grade students has increased over the last decade, the rate of increase has slowed in recent years.
58 percent of sexually active high school men and women nationwide reported using a condom during their last sexual intercourse. At a 65 percent usage rate, black young women were significantly more likely to use a condom than white young women (48 percent) and Hispanic young women students (43 percent).
In a recent longitudinal study, it was determined that girls' athletic participation was directly related to reduced frequency of sexual behavior and, indirectly, to reduced pregnancy risk. The same study also indicated family cohesion as being associated with lower sexual activity for both sexes.
The decline in the teenage birth rate is not due to an increase in abortion. The abortion rate declined by 22 percent among women aged 15-19, between 1991 and 1996.
In a nationwide study, 16.2 percent of sexually active high school women reported using the Pill as a method of birth control. Also, among the same population of students nationwide, 24.8 percent reported using alcohol or drugs at last sexual intercourse.
White teenage women (21.5 percent) were significantly more likely than black teenage women (9.3 percent) to have used either of these harmful substances during last sexual intercourse.
Teenage women's contraceptive use at first intercourse rose from 48 percent to 65 percent during the 1980s, almost entirely because of a doubling in condom use. By 1995, use at first intercourse reached 78 percent, with two-thirds of it condom use.
Young women are more susceptible than adult women to cervical infections, and two-thirds of STDs occur in people ages 15-24. 4 Most teens, however, do not consider oral sex as a sexual activity placing them at an increased risk for STDs.
Young mothers and their children face increased challenges.
Because a high proportion of teen mothers support themselves and their infants while balancing the demands of childcare, earning a living, and finishing school, many do not obtain the social support necessary to succeed academically.
Early parenting limits a young mother's likelihood of completing the high school and postsecondary education necessary to qualify for a well-paying job. Only 32 percent of teenage mothers who begin their families before age 18 ever complete high school. In contrast, half (50 percent) of young women who delay childbearing until age 20 or 21 obtain a high school diploma by age 30.
Adolescent childbearing contributes to high rates of economic inactivity among young adults. Children of teen mothers are 30 percent more likely to be neither working nor in school. Also, teenage mothers' daughters are 22 percent more likely to become teen mothers themselves. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy, quoting Rebecca Maynard, teen childbearing costs taxpayers $6.9 billion each year.
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For more information on girls and sexual issues, see these Girls Incorporated' Facts Sheets:
Girls Incorporated' covers this vital health issue in its sexuality education program Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy SM , which has four components. The program empowers girls to be strong, smart and bold about their sexuality by acquiring the necessary skills to make responsible decisions about their health and sexual behavior. The program provides appropriate factual information on risky behavior that can result in pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease and avoidance and safe-sex techniques including abstinence as the only sure method for prevention.
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