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MOST BRITISH TEENS HAVE POSITIVE VIEWS ABOUT THEIR FIRST SEXUAL EXPERIENCE

Young Women More Likely Than Young Men to Report Having Felt Pressure or Regret

Most sexually experienced British teens have positive feelings about their first and most recent sexual experiences, according to “The Quality of Young People’s Heterosexual Relationships: A Longitudinal Analysis of Characteristics Shaping Subjective Experience,” by Daniel Wight et al., published in the December 2008 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. However, a substantial proportion of teens surveyed in Scotland and England (30%) regretted their first intercourse. The proportion who had felt pressured at first sex was roughly twice as high among females as among males (19% vs. 10%), as were the proportions who regretted their first time (38% vs. 20%) and who did not enjoy their most recent sexual experience (12% vs. 5%).

The authors analyzed data from two school-based longitudinal studies of 13–16-year-olds, and found that of the 42% of youth who reported having had sex by the time of the follow up survey, most assessed their first and most recent sexual relationships positively. Most (81%) also reported feeling no pressure at first intercourse. Those most likely to report feeling pressure from a partner at first sex were female, members of “other” racial or ethnic groups, and adolescents reporting poor communication with parents or regular drug use. Additionally, those who had engaged in sex at age 13 or younger were more likely to feel regret than were those who had been 15–16 years old, and teens who had first had sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend of more than one month were less likely to feel regret than were those who had first had sex with a casual partner.

The authors suggest that encouraging teens to delay first sex and to restrict sexual activity to close, established relationships can help improve their satisfaction with sexual activity and reduce the number of teens who feel regret about their experiences. They recommend additional research to identify educational or programmatic approaches to develop teens’ partner negotiation and communication skills as tools to help them delay premature sexual intercourse, improve their control of sexual encounters and maintain long-term relationships.

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