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More Teenagers and College Students are Sexually Abstinent

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Earlier this month, we heard the good news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that today’s trends indicate more sexual abstinence by teens and college students, as well as a decrease in teen pregnancy (a trend that began in the ‘90s).  Among 15- to 24-year olds, just under 30 percent report no sexual contact ever — the current percentages (29 percent for females and 27 percent for males) are a significant increase of abstinent young people from 2002, when the percentage was 22 percent.  Other recent trends indicate less sexual activity, fewer teen pregnancies and births, and lower abortion rates. Note my earlier blog about the research from two Notre Dame professors, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, who note how sex has increasingly been separated from marriage and how 70 percent of contemporary young adults regret their first sexual encounter.  Regnerus and Uecker document some of the realities that are prompting today’s young people to be abstinent. The trend back to abstinence is good news indeed and certainly substantiates our claims that providing better information leads to better decision-making by adolescents and young adults.  All these new, more positive trends mean a brighter future for the nation’s young people. I need to add, however, that the rising proportion of unwed births (41 percent in 2009) for women continues to be problematic.  And it’s not, as it used to be in the 1960s and 1970s, primarily a problem of raging teen hormones.  In 1973, teens’ share of unwed birth was 53 percent of all unwed births.  However, in 2009 it had declined to only 21; it is now the 20-something women who are driving the share of out-of-wedlock births higher and higher.  Among today’s young women, “baby bumps” are not just culturally acceptable, but glamorized in the media, which has filtered down to the high school level and spread throughout American culture.