Teenagers want their relationships to bring them intimacy, social status and sexual pleasure, and they have a strong expectation that these goals will be fulfilled if they have sex, according to “Greater Expectations: Adolescents’ Positive Motivations for Sex,” by Mary A. Ott et al., published in the June 2006 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

The researchers asked ninth graders at Northern California high schools about their relationship goals, their expectations of the degree to which sex would satisfy these goals and their sexual experience. Both boys and girls ranked intimacy as the most important relationship goal, followed by social status and sexual pleasure, although females considered intimacy significantly more important and pleasure significantly less so than males. Additionally, teenagers who were sexually experienced had higher expectations that sex would meet their goals for intimacy, sexual pleasure and social status than teens who had not had sex.

The authors suggest that by gaining a better understanding of teens’ perceptions of the interpersonal and social benefits of sex, rather than focusing only on their perceptions of risks, providers and prevention programs will be better able to help teens delay first sex and avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

A second article in the same issue of Perspectives, “Boyfriends, Girlfriends and Teenagers’ Risk of Sexual Involvement,” by Barbara VanOss Marin et al., follows a sample of California youth through middle school, and finds that even small age differences between girls and their boyfriends increases their risk of becoming sexually active. The authors found that young girls who had a boyfriend by seventh grade were more likely to be sexually active in ninth grade, and that those who had an older boyfriend were at greater risk than those whose boyfriend was their own age. A companion viewpoint in this issue, “Early Predictors of Sexual Behavior: Implications for Young Adolescents and Their Parents,” by Lisa D. Lieberman, suggests that the relationship between early dating and sexual behavior is an important issue, and should be incorporated into interventions aimed at reducing young people’s sexual risk.

Also in this issue:

“Exploring the Link Between Substance Use and Abortion: The Roles of Unconventionality and Unplanned Pregnancy,” by Steven C. Martino et al.

“Disparities in Rates of Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, 1994 and 2001,” by Lawrence B. Finer and Stanley K. Henshaw.

“Early Adolescents’ Cognitive Susceptibility to Initiating Sexual Intercourse,” by Kelly Ladin L’Engle et al.

“Contraceptive Use and Pregnancy Risk Among U.S. High School Students, 1991-2003,” by John S. Santelli et al.