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Adolescent sexuality and sexual behavior

Feldmann, Jennifer; Middleman, Amy B.

Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology:
Adult and pediatric gynecology
Abstract

Purpose of review: Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and physical, as well as cognitive, development. It is within this context that adolescent sexual development and sexual behavior occur. While curiosity and experimentation are normal, sexual behaviors, both coital and non-coital, place adolescents at risk for undesired consequences including sexually transmitted disease acquisition and pregnancy. Trends in adolescent sexual behavior are changing, and health care professionals must be aware of these trends to provide necessary medical care and education to this population.

Recent findings: While the sexual activity of teenagers garners much attention, attention must also be directed at non-coital activities such as masturbation, mutual masturbation and oral sex, as the riskier of these behaviors appear to be increasing. The trends in sexual activity and contraceptive use are encouraging with a decrease in the proportion of adolescents reporting sexual activity, and an increase in the proportion reporting using contraception. These trends, however, are not shared equally among racial groups with the greatest decline reported in the in lowest risk groups. Sexual minority youth continue to report a higher prevalence of high-risk behaviors, both sexual and non-sexual, as compared to their heterosexual peers.

Summary: These findings highlight the multiple roles health care professionals can play in caring for this unique population: firstly as health care providers, offering age appropriate, confidential health care; secondly, as reproductive health care educators providing factual, balanced, and realistic information to both teenagers and the community; and thirdly, as advocates lobbying for greater education and services for this at-risk population.

Author Information

Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Adolescent and Sport Medicine Section, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, Texas, USA

Correspondence to Jennifer Feldmann, MD, Fellow in Adolescent Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Adolescent and Sport Medicine Section, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, Texas, USA. Fax: +1 832 825 3689; e-mail: feldmann@bcm.tmc.edu

Abbreviations CDC: Centers for Disease Control LGB: lesbian, gay, bisexual STD: sexually transmitted disease

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.