HOUSTON (April 8, 2009) Middle school youth are engaging in sexual intercourse as early as age 12, according to a study by researchers at The University of Texas School of Public Health.
Results from this study are published in the April issue of Journal of School Health.
Christine Markham, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioral science at the UT School of Public Health, and colleagues examined sexual risk behaviors among middle school students in a large southeastern U.S. urban public school district.
"This is one of the few school-based studies conducted with this age group to look at specific sexual practices in order to develop more effective prevention programs," Markham said. "This study shows that although most seventh graders are not engaging in sexual risk behaviors, a small percentage are putting themselves at risk."
In the study, Markham and colleagues defined sexual intercourse as vaginal, oral or anal sex. According to their research, by age 12, 12 percent of students had already engaged in vaginal sex, 7.9 percent in oral sex, 6.5 percent in anal sex and 4 percent in all three types of intercourse.
The study found one-third of sexually active students reported engaging in vaginal or anal sex without a condom within the past three months, and one-fourth had four or more partners. The more experienced students in all three types of intercourse were more likely to be male and African-American.
"We need to develop prevention programs that address the needs of students who are not yet sexually active in order to promote skills and attitudes to help them wait until they are older to have sex," Markham said. "And we need to provide skills and knowledge related to condoms and contraception for youth who are already sexually active."
The study recommends that sexually active students also need to receive accurate and factual information and services related to STDs and pregnanc
|Contact: Jade Waddy|
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston