Understanding the Sexual Behavior of Adolescents.
Public health officials and educators have a long-standing interest in adolescent sexual behavior and risk prevention--an interest intensified by the spread of HIV. Unfortunately, understanding of adolescent sexuality is quite limited. Research on adolescent sexual behavior has typically concentrated on vaginal intercourse. However, adolescents who are virgins (defined as never having had vaginal intercourse) may still be sexually active and may behave in ways that put them at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). .
As part of an ongoing program of research on risk behavior, Mark Schuster and his colleagues examined the range of adolescent sexual activity. They gathered data about the sexual behavior of adolescents in a socioeconomically diverse Los Angeles County school district, providing some of the first empirical information about the sexual practices of a population-based sample of high-school-aged virgins. The researchers also used this information to evaluate how a condom availability program affected adolescents' attitudes and behavior. .
Among the key findings from this research: .
Many high-school-aged virgins engaged in genital sexual activities that can transmit disease. .
Virgins who engaged in activities most likely to transmit STDs were more likely to have used cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. .
Adolescents would like more information about sexual matters, but many don't know if they can trust their doctors. .
A high school condom availability program was associated with a significant increase in the percentage of males who used condoms. .
The program also appears to have significantly increased the percentage of virgins who intended to use condoms in the future. .
Learning About the Sexual Behavior of Adolescents .
RAND researchers conducted a survey of sexual activity among high school students in a Los Angeles County school district in 1992.