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Increased age of sexual consent in Canada may not protect teens at greatest risk: UBC study
Date:11/16/2010

The increase in the legal age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years in 2008 may not be protecting those at greatest risk, according to researchers who have analyzed British Columbia population-based data and recommend additional strategies to safeguard vulnerable children and teens.

In the first study of its kind in Canada, researchers from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University tested the government's reasons for changing the law. Their findings are published in the current issue the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.

According to the study's lead author, Bonnie Miller, there were two primary reasons given for changing the law: to protect younger teens from being sexually exploited by adults, and to prevent them from making poorer sexual health decisions because of immaturity.

"The law was changed to protect 14 and 15 year olds from adult sexual predators," says Miller, a research assistant in the UBC School of Nursing.

"But it turns out they're not the ones at greatest risk. We found children under 13, already protected by the existing law, were the ones most likely to report first sex with adults age 20 years or older."

Thirty-nine percent of teens who reported sex before age 12 had a first sexual partner who was 20 years or older, but only two to three per cent of 14 and 15 year olds had a first sexual partner who was 20 or older.

"It's important to protect children and teens from sexual exploitation," adds senior author Elizabeth Saewyc, professor of nursing and adolescent medicine at UBC. "But changes in laws should be based on evidence, and our evidence suggests this change isn't going to address the real problem."

The research team analyzed data from the 2008 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey, conducted by Saewyc and the McCreary Centre Society. The province-wide survey included more than 29,000 students in Grades 7 to 12.

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Contact: Lorraine Chan
lorraine.chan@ubc.ca
604-822-2644
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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