“Good girls don’t, but I do.”
CDC study finds sexual activity among Missouri teens rising
Eileen Yager, Communications Officer,
Extension & Ag Information
University of Missouri, firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1979, Missouri teenagers were dancing to the lyrics of “Good Girls Don’t” by The Knack. Twenty-five years later, those teens now have teen-agers of their own, and the lyrics still ring true.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 52 percent of Missouri teens in grades 9-12 and 68 percent of high school seniors reported being sexually active in 2003. The U.S. rate for high school students is 47 percent and 61 percent for seniors.
reinforces the need to provide teens with factual information on
human sexuality at an early age. That’s the one thing kids want
information on,” said Tom Berger, a former human development
specialist with the MU Extension Center for Adolescent
Sexuality, Pregnancy and Prevention.
Every two years, the CDC administers the Youth Risk Behavior
Surveillance System survey to high school students throughout
the United States. The study monitors health-risk behaviors,
including sexual behaviors that contribute to sexually
transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies. The YRBSS also
looks at tobacco, alcohol and drug use; diet and physical
activity; and violence.
“The YRBSS is the best source of information about teens,” Berger said.
This year’s results, released in May, show that sexual activity among
Missouri students in grades 9-12, is increasing, he said. In
2001, the number of students who reported having sexual
intercourse was 50 percent.
Nationally, there was no change in the number of teens who report being
The study showed an increase among females – 53 percent in 2003
compared with 47 percent in 2001. In both 2001 and 2003, the
number of males who said they had sexual intercourse was 52
Berger has interviewed more than 1,200 Missouri adolescents and teens
during the past four years. His research has found that white,
rural females from two-parent households, who get good grades in
school, are at the highest risk for sexual activity at an early
Kim Webb, extension associate, said, “These girls tend to go out with
older guys,” who have money and cars. Berger said half of teen
mothers report that the father is older than 20.
Lack of other recreational activities, as well as drinking alcohol or using drugs, contribute to the risk. “We know there is a link between sexual activity and alcohol or drug use,” Webb said.
“Kids who drink or use drugs are more likely to be
in situations for high-risk behaviors to take place.”
Berger said that the earlier teens become sexually active the greater
their risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, being
victims of abuse and becoming pregnant.
In contrast, the risk factors decrease for teens who receive
comprehensive sex education that includes teaching respect for
oneself and others, responsibility and consequences.
“We need to encourage frank and honest discussion between teens and
their parents,” Berger said. “All the research I am aware of
says talking about it does not encourage teens to have sex.”
In fact, Berger said, teens who have had comprehensive sex education
tend to delay their first sexual encounter, increase their use
of contraceptives and, most importantly, talk more with their
Webb said she recognizes that some parents may be uncomfortable talking
about sexuality with their children, however, teens who turn to
their peers often receive inaccurate information.
Parents, she said, should “spend their time on lessons that teach them
to avoid high-risk situations.”
Berger said the information parents provide should be factual. “‘Just say no’ messages are fear-based,” he said. “Fear-based messages don’t work.”
Sources: Tom Berger; Kim Webb, (573) 884-0644
Last Updated 05/05/2009