Babies Having Babies

04.08.14

80 Percent of Young Teens Have No Sexual Education Before Having Sex

A new CDC report finds significant progress in reducing teen pregnancy, but finds sexual education seriously lacking.

More than 80 percent of teens ages 15-17 have had no formal sex education before they have sex for the first time, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday.

These findings point to the fact that although significant progress has been made in reducing teen pregnancy, further targeted measures are necessary in order to delay sexual intercourse and increase the use of effective forms of contraception for sexually active teens.

While births to younger teens (15-17 year-olds) declined 63 percent from 1991 to 2012, they still represent over a quarter of adolescent births. That is nearly 1,700 births a week, according to this month’s Vital Signs, with higher birth rates for Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents.

CDC researchers, analyzing birth data from the National Vital Statistics System and adolescent health behavior data from the National Survey of Family Growth, found that one in four teens from this age group had never spoken with a parent about sex. While 90 percent reported using some form of contraception, most relied on the least effective methods. (Planned Parenthood qualifies spermicide and fertility-awareness methods as least effective.)

Young adolescents who give birth are more likely to have another child at a young age and are less likely than older teen mothers to finish high school or obtain their GED. “We need to provide young people with the support and opportunities they need to empower themselves. Trying to balance the task of childbearing while trying to complete their high school education is a difficult set of circumstances, even with the help of family and others,” says Shanna Cox, from CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health.

May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, and the report comes as part of the CDC’s ongoing efforts to continue the dialogue surrounding teen pregnancy.