12-year-old schoolkids engaging in risky sex

April 9th, 2009 - 12:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 9 (IANS) School children as young as 12 are engaging in risky sex, a new study has found.
Christine Markham, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Texas (UT) School of Public Health, and colleagues examined risky sexual behaviour among middle school students.

“These findings are alarming because youth who start having sex before age 14 are much more likely to have multiple lifetime sexual partners, use alcohol or drugs before sex and have unprotected sex, all of which put them at greater risk for getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or becoming pregnant,” Markham said.

“This is one of the few school-based studies conducted with this age group to look at specific sexual practices in order to develop more effective prevention programmes,” Markham said.

“This study shows that although most seventh graders are not engaging in sexual risk behaviours, a small percentage are putting themselves at risk,” she added.

Markham and colleagues defined sexual intercourse as vaginal, oral or anal sex. According to their research, by age 12, as many as 12 percent had already engaged in vaginal sex, 7.9 percent in oral sex, 6.5 percent in anal sex and four percent in all three modes.

The study found one-third of sexually active students reported engaging in vaginal or anal sex without a condom within the past three months, and one-fourth had four or more partners.

The more experienced students in all three types of intercourse were more likely to be male and African-American.

“A common misperception among adolescents is that oral or anal intercourse is not as risky for STD transmission,” said Markham. “But transmission of non-viral and viral STDs can occur through all three types of intercourse when condoms are not used.”

“We need to develop prevention programmes that address the needs of students who are not yet sexually active in order to promote skills and attitudes to help them wait until they are older to have sex,” Markham said. “And we need to provide skills and knowledge related to condoms and contraception for youth who are already sexually active.”

More than one-third of youth in the study reported engaging in precoital touching behaviours. Among the students who engaged in precoital behaviour, 43 percent reported having engaged in sexual intercourse, said an UT release.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80 percent of the 435,427 births to mothers ages 15 to 19 were the result of unintended pregnancies.

According to the National Vital Statistics Report, birth rates among Hispanic and black teens remain higher than other racial/ethnic groups, including rates among those ages 10 to 14.

In 2000, youth between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for 9.1 million or 48 percent of all new STD cases, according to a report by the CDC.

The results were published in the April issue of Journal of School Health.

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