Sexual Behavior Among U.S. High School Students, 1990–1995

Charles W. Warren John S. Santelli, Guttmacher Institute Sherry A. Everett Laura Kann Janet L. Collins Carol Cassell Leo Morris Lloyd J. Kolbe

First published online:

Abstract / Summary

Context: High rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV infection, among adolescents are major public health concerns that have created interest in trends in teenage sexual activity.

Methods: Nationally representative data from Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted in 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1995 are used to examine levels of sexual experience, age at first intercourse, current sexual activity and condom use at last intercourse among students in grades 9-12.

Results: The proportion of students who reported being sexually experienced remained at 53-54% from 1990 through 1995, while the percentage of sexually active students who used condoms at last intercourse rose from 46% to 54% between 1991 and 1995. Black students were more likely than white students to report being sexually experienced, being currently sexually active and having had four or more lifetime sexual partners; black students also reported a significantly younger age at first intercourse. Gender differences in sexual behavior were found more frequently among black students than among white or Hispanic students.

Conclusions: Although levels of sexual experience for high school students in the United States have not risen during the 1990s, a very high percentage of students continue to be at risk for unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV infection.

Family Planning Perspectives, 1998, 30(4):170–172

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Author's Affiliations

Charles W. Warren is a statistician/demographer, John S. Santelli is a medical epidemiologist, Sherry A. Everett is a health scientist, Laura Kann is chief of the Surveillance Research Section, Janet L. Collins is chief of the Surveillance and Evaluation Research Branch, Carol Cassell is a health education specialist and Lloyd J. Kolbe is director, all with the Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA; Leo Morris is chief of the Behavioral Epidemiology and Demographic Research Branch, Division of Reproductive Health, CDC.


The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.