There are many factors that may influence a teen’s decision to become sexually active or to remain abstinent. These factors can include age, physical maturity, parental and personal values as well as education. The best way to promote abstinence is through knowledge and educating teens on the risks associated with sexual activity. Teens need to know the risks and understand that there are other ways to show their feelings, as well as ways to deal with the intensity of their sexual feelings. One third of fifteen year old girls surveyed in the United States say that neither of their parents have talked to them about how pregnancy occurs, and fifty percent say that neither parent has discussed contraception of sexually transmitted diseases (Guttmacher, 1994). This proves a definite need for abstinence education programs within the school setting. Through education teens can learn that abstinence is the only safe sex.

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According to Child Trends Data Bank (2001) the percentage of high school students who have ever had sexual intercourse dropped between 1990 and 2001 from fifty-four percent to forty-six percent. Forty-six percent of U.S. high school students are or have been sexually active. The data bank also reported that male high school students were slightly more likely than female students to have ever had sexual intercourse. Forty-nine percent of male high school students in comparison to forty-three of females are sexually active. The data bank suggests that age also appears to be a determining factor thirty-four percent ninth graders reported being sexually active, while sixty-one percent of twelfth graders had been sexually involved in 2001. These percentages prove abstinence education is needed before students enter high school.
There are numerous risks factors associated with sexual activity among teens. These risks may include but are not limited to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, as well as regret and guilt. These are just a few risks factors and consequences associated with sexually activity among teens.
One of the largest risks associated with teens and sexual activity is the fear and possibility of having an unwanted pregnancy. According to Child trends Data Bank (Teen Pregnancy, 2001) seventy-eight percent of all teen pregnancies are unintended. Within the seventy-eight percent of unintended pregnancies, thirty five percent are aborted. There are also many complications and risks for teen females that are commonly associated with teen pregnancy.
According to Advocates for Youth the maternal death rate among teens ages fifteen and younger is two times higher than maternal death rates in females aged twenty to twenty four. Teen mothers fifteen and younger are also twice as likely as older mothers to loose their baby within the first twenty-eight days of the baby’s life. These death rates among teen’s young can be related to age, and inadequate prenatal care. The younger a mother is the less likely she is to receive prenatal care within the first few months of pregnancy (Levenberg, 1998).
Aside from all the health factors associated with teen pregnancy there are also emotional and mental risks that can are related to teen pregnancy. Unplanned teen pregnancy means less support from father, financial instability, new demands and responsibilities that require many personal sacrifices. Teen mothers are required to place their life on hold to care for a baby. Parent-hood is a long-term responsibility. Teens must replace things such as school dances, movie dates, proms and social outing with night feedings, diaper changes, doctor appointments, and other parental responsibilities. According to child trends data bank in 2001 sexually active teens accounted for over one million pregnancies. Nineteen percent of sexually active teens aged fifteen to nineteen became pregnant. A sexually active teen that does not use contraceptives has a ninety percent chance of becoming pregnant within one year (Harlap, 1998). Teen pregnancy is a very real risks sexually active teens are faced with.
Aside from fear of pregnancy teens are faced with the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. According to The Alan Guttmacher Institute (1994) ever year three million teens, about one in four sexually active teens, acquire a Sexually transmitted disease. What makes STDs so dangerous is that they are easily spread, together with the fact that it’s often impossible to tell if someone has an STD just by looking at him or her. All STDs have one thing in common: they are spread via sexual contact, which includes sexual intercourse and anal or oral contact. Many teens think they can’t get an STD through anal or oral contact, but they can. Common STD’s found in teens include, chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, and even HIV.
A common STD teens contract is herpes. Approximately one in four Americans are infected with genital herpes; there is no known cure for this STD. The herpes virus can be transmitted during vaginal, anal and oral intercourse and can also be transmitted to other parts of the body through touch. Therefore, condoms do not always offer protection against this STD (Autumn, 1998.). Similar to other STDs, many individuals who are infected with herpes suffer no symptoms. Eighty percent of people with genital herpes do not develop any symptoms, but can transmit the virus to other people. (Autumn, 1998.)
Herpes is just one of the numerous STDs a sexually active teens is at risk for coming in contact with. Teens need to be aware that even condoms are not one hundred percent effective in permitting the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease. The only way teens can be completely protected against an STD is to remain sexually abstinent and avoid contact with bodily fluids. It is important that teens be educated in detail about the seriousness of contacting STD’s and the long-term risks that maybe associated with the contracting of an STD including pelvic inflammatory disease and cervical cancer in women.
Other consequences teen may face as a result of sexual activity are emotional factors. Teens often feel pressure in relationships and sex may often been an end result of relationship pressures. Teen girls are more likely than males to engage in sexual activity as a display of love for their partner. Teens often report feelings of regret as well as loss of self-esteem and self-respect. Often after relationships fail teens may feel regret and be ashamed for engaging in sexual activity with their former partner. Teens may experience rage over feelings of betrayal and lack of trust in future relationships. Teens do not have to deal with all these added pressures, these are just added reasons for teens to remain sexually abstinent.
The main thing teens need to know about sex is that not everyone is doing it. Over half of their peers remain sexually abstinent. Teenage years can be a very confusing time for teenagers both males and females may feel pressure to become sexually active. The media gives many misconceptions that all relationships involve sexual intercourse and that couples only communicate their feelings through sexual activity. Teens need to know how to analyze their relationships and determine their own values and limitations. Teens can also look at Bob Bartlett’s signs of healthy relationships to determine if their partner is acceptant of the limitations they have set for themselves.
Bob Bartlett is a youth counselor and Minneapolis where he also teaches classes to teens all around the country on sexuality and intimacy. Bob Bartlett has also written a hot to book for teens about healthy relationships. Within his book he lists four signs of healthy relationships that teens can use to analyze the relationships they are in. 1.Dating is supposed to be fun. It should to be pressure. Relationships have no set patterns and timetables. In a healthy relationship, there is no point A, B, C, or K to get to. If one person in the relationship is not comfortable doing something the other should respect that. 2. Relationships should not be exclusive. Relationships that are healthy tend to include others and ten to be open to life. Often teens cut off good friends while they are dating. A person that really loves you will not ask you to give up friends you really care about. 3. The couple is comfortable with silence. Couples who are intimate in healthy ways can sometimes study silently or sit closely together for fifteen minutes or more and feel very comfortable. 4. In a healthy relationship, both partners are equals. Some teens get caught in relationships in which they feel controlled by the other (1997). These four signs of healthy relationships may help teens determine if they are currently in a healthy relationship, if not they may be feeling unnecessary sexual pressures.
Bartlett also believes that teens are very intense and need ways to channel their intensity. It is advised that teens find things to do with their spare time and make dating a social event rather than private thing. Double dates are easier ways for teens to avoid placing themselves in situations that may lead to unfavorable outcomes. Teens can engage in extracurricular activities that help them discover who they are and what they stand for. Teens need to have a good understanding of their morals and values and surround themselves with others who share the same values. Teens who stand firmly by their limitations will have a greater self-esteem and confidence as well as a sense of pride for standing up for what they believe in. By doing a self-evaluation teens can determine what is important to them and if sexual activity is worth all the risks and consequences that follow. By analyzing the risks associated with sexual activity it is clear to see that abstinence is the only way to be free from worry of pregnancy, STD’s, and the emotional stressors linked to sexual activity. There is no such thing as safe sex; teens need to trust that abstinence is the only safe way.
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