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Main article: Human sexuality

Adolescent sexuality refers to sexual feelings, behavior and development in adolescents and is a stage of human sexuality. Sexuality "is a vital aspect of teens' lives"[1] The sexual behavior of adolescents is influenced by their culture's norms and mores, their sexual preference, and the issues of social control such as age of consent laws.


In humans, mature sexual desire usually begins to appear with the onset of puberty. Sexual expression can take the form of masturbation or sex with a partner. Sexual preferences among adolescents, like adults, can vary greatly from heterosexuality, to homosexuality, to bisexuality, to sexual fetishism, or even asexuality. Sexual activity generally is associated with a number of risks, including sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS) and pregnancy through failure or non-use of birth control. Particularly for adolescents, who are not emotionally mature,[2] there are added risks of emotional distress or future poverty from teenage pregnancy.

Sex educationEdit

Main article: Sex education

Sex education is a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, and other aspects of human sexual behavior. Common avenues for sex education are parents or caregivers, school programs, and public health campaigns.

Sexual education in different countries vary. For example, in France sex education has been part of school curricula since 1973. Schools are expected to provide 30 to 40 hours of sex education, and pass out condoms to students in grades eight and nine. In January, 2000, the French government launched an information campaign on contraception with TV and radio spots and the distribution of five million leaflets on contraception to high school students.[3]

Almost all U.S. students receive some form of sex education at least once between grades 7 and 12; many schools begin addressing some topics as early as grades 5 or 6.[4] However, what students learn varies widely, because curriculum decisions are so decentralized. [5]Two main forms of sex education are taught in American schools: comprehensive and abstinence-only. A 2002 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 58% of secondary school principals describe their sex education curriculum as comprehensive, while 34% said their school's main message was abstinence-only [5] The difference between these two approaches, and their impact on teen behavior, remains a controversial subject in the U.S. [6][7]

In Asia the state of sex education programs are at various stages of development. Indonesia, Mongolia, South Korea and Sri Lanka have a systematic policy framework for teaching about sex within schools. Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand have assessed adolescent reproductive health needs with a view to developing adolescent-specific training, messages and materials. India has programs that specifically aims at school children at the age group of nine to sixteen years. These are included as subjects in the curriculum and generally involves open and frank interaction with the teachers. Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan have no coordinated sex education programs.[8]

Teenage pregnancyEdit

Main article: Teenage pregnancy

Adolescent girls become fertile following the menarche (first menstrual period), which occurs in the United States at an average age of 12.5., although it can vary widely between different girls. After menarche, sexual intercourse (especially without contraception) can lead to pregnancy. The pregnant teenager may then miscarry, have an abortion, or carry the child to full term.

Pregnant teenagers face many of the same obstetrics issues as women in their 20s and 30s. However, there are additional medical concerns for younger mothers, particularly those under 15 and those living in developing countries. [9] For mothers between 15 and 19, age in itself is not a risk factor, but additional risks may be associated with socioeconomic factors; for example pregnant teenagers are less likely than women over 20 to receive early prenatal care. [10]

Worldwide, rates of teenage births range widely. For example, sub-Saharan Africa has a high proportion of teenage mothers whereas industrialized Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan have very low rates. [11] Teenage pregnancy in developed countries is usually outside of marriage, and carries a social stigma; teenage mothers and their children in developed countries show lower educational levels, higher rates of poverty, and other poorer "life outcomes" compared with older mothers and their children. [12] In the developing world, teenage pregnancy is usually within marriage and does not carry such a stigma. [13]

Legal aspects of adolescent sexual activityEdit

Age of Consent
Main article: Age of consent

Many countries have an age of consent, the minimum age at which a person is considered to be capable of legally giving informed consent to any kind of sexual behavior. The legal of consent has varied from being age 13 in Japan, age 14 across Canada, and age 16-18 in many states in the United States. In some jurisdictions, the age of consent for homosexual acts may be different from that for heterosexual acts. The age of consent in a particular jurisdiction is typically the same as the age of majority or several years younger. The age at which one can legally marry is also sometimes different from the legal age of consent.

Sexual relations with a person under the age of consent are generally a criminal offense in the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed, with punishments ranging from token fines to life imprisonment. Many different terms exist for the charges laid and include statutory rape, illegal carnal knowledge, or corruption of a minor. In some cases, sexual activity with someone above the legal age of consent but beneath the age of majority can be punishable under laws against contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

See alsoEdit


  1. Ponton, Lynn (2000). The Sex Lives of Teenagers, 2, New York: Dutton.
  2. John R. Chapman (2000). Adolescent sex and mass media: a developmental approach.. Adolescence Winter.
  3. Britain: Sex Education Under Fire UNESCO Courier
  4. , David J. Landry, Susheela Singh and Jacqueline E. Darroch (September/October 2000). Sexuality Education in Fifth and Sixth Grades in U.S. Public Schools, 1999. Family Planning Perspectices 32 (5).
  5. 5.0 5.1 (2002). Sex Education in the U.S.: Policy and Politics. (PDF) Issue Update. Kaiser Family Foundation. URL accessed on 2007-05-23.
  6. Hauser, Debra (2004). Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education: Assessing the Impact. Advocates for Youth. URL accessed on 2007-05-23.
  7. National Abstinence Education Association (2007-04-13). Mathematica Findings Too Narrow. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-05-25.
  8. Adolescents In Changing Times: Issues And Perspectives For Adolescent Reproductive Health In The ESCAP Region United Nations Social and Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific
  9. Pregnancy and childbirth are leading causes of death in teenage girls in developing countries
  10. Makinson, C. (1985). The health consequences of teenage fertility. Family Planning Perspectives, 17 (3), 132-9. Retrieved May 29, 2006.
  11. Indicator: Births per 1000 women (15-19 ys) – 2002 UNFPA, State of World Population 2003, Retrieved Jan 22, 2007.
  12. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2002). Not Just Another Single Issue: Teen Pregnancy Prevention's Link to Other Critical Social IssuesPDF (58.5 KiB). Retrieved May 27, 2006.
  13. Population Council (2006)Unexplored Elements of Adolescence in the Developing World Population Briefs, January 2006, Vol. 12, No. 1. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
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