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Young People Engaging In Sexual Activity Differ on Definitions of Virginity, Abstinence
Date:11/1/2007

New study uncovers inconsistencies in teens' perceptions of sex

BERKELEY, Calif., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ - Some teens believe they will stay virgins after engaging in oral sex, genital touching and even anal sex, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Also, nearly half of teens said intimate touching and oral sex were not considered sex.

Respondents ranged in age from 12 to 16 years old and differed on their notion of both abstinence and virginity. More than 83 percent of surveyed young people said a person was still a virgin if he or she participated in genital touching, and 70 percent said they believed girls and boys keep their virginity if they participate in oral sex. This pattern was consistent across gender, age group, ethnicity, and sexual behavior experience.

"A large proportion of young people believe even an intimate level of sexual contact is abstaining from sex and being a virgin," said Dr. Melina Bersamin, Ph.D., lead study author. "Perhaps the overarching message is that there are different meanings associated with terms such as 'have sex,' abstinence, and virginity. When working with adolescents, it is important to specifically define what we mean by sexual behaviors to ensure a common understanding. This applies to doctors taking sexual histories, instructors delivering sex education or abstinence programs to youth, and to scientists conducting research."

The study, carried out by the PIRE Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, interviewed middle and high school students regarding their perceptions of sexual activity and what constitutes "virginity" and "abstinence." More than 900 adolescents from 10 California counties were interviewed using an in-home computer-assisted interview technique in which the young people answered questions directly on a computer, thus maximizing privacy.

Researchers found definitions of abstinence among the young people were somewhat different. More th
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SOURCE Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
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