Adolescent 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. 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. Sexual activity in general is associated with a number of risks, including sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), emotional distress, and pregnancy through failure or non-use of birth control. This is particularly true for adolescents as most are not emotionally mature or financially self sufficient.

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; for example, obstetric fistula is a particular issue for very young mothers in poorer regions. 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.

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. 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. In the developing world, teenage pregnancy is usually within marriage and does not carry such a stigma.

Legal aspects of adolescent sexual activity

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 with an adult. But sexual intercourse between adolescents with age difference within 2-3 years are generally not prohibited under law in many countries. The legal age 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.

Sex education

Sex education, also called "Sexuality Education" or informally "Sex Ed" is a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, human sexual behavior, and other aspects of sexuality, such as body image, sexual orientation, dating, and relationships. Common avenues for sex education are parents, caregivers, friends, school programs, religious groups, popular media, 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.

According to SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, in most families, parents are the primary sex educators of their adolescents. They found 93% of adults they surveyed support sexuality education in high school and 84% support it in junior high school. In fact, 88% of parents of junior high school students and 80% of parents of high school students believe that sex education in school makes it easier for them to talk to their adolescents about sex. Also, 92% of adolescents report that they want both to talk to their parents about sex and to have comprehensive in-school sex education.

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. However, what students learn varies widely, because curriculum decisions are so decentralized. 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 The difference between these two approaches, and their impact on teen behavior, remains a controversial subject in the U.S. Some studies have shown abstinence-only programs to have no positive effects. Other studies have shown specific programs to result in more than 2/3 of students maintaining that they will remain abstinent until marriage months after completing such a program; such "virginity pledges," however, are statistically ineffective, and over 95% of Americans do, in fact, have sex before marriage.

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, Nepal and Pakistan have no coordinated sex education programs.

See also

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This article is based on "Adolescent sexuality" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Adolescent+sexuality&action=history