Studies and surveys conducted by professionals have revealed data on adolescents who have had sex and variables that delay the onset of coitus for both males and females. In 2005, 47% of high students had sexual intercourse and 14% of high school students had had four or more sex partners during their life (CDC, 2006). In a youth survey, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2005) had shown that youth between grades 9 and 12 have been sexually active. It revealed that the percentage had decreased from the year 1991 to 2005.

There exist important data gathered by researchers that reveals differences in adolescent sexual behavior by race/ethnicity, gender and urban/rural residence. Dillard (2002) reported racial differences in sexual activity: “Among male high school students, 68.8 percent of African Americans, 53.0 percent of Latinos and 45.1 percent of whites reported having had sexual intercourse. Among female high school students, 53.4 percent of African Americans, 44.0 percent of Latinos and 41.3 percent of whites reported having had sexual intercourse. Overall African American students were significantly more likely than Latino or white students to have had sex" (p. 1). Lammers, Ireland, Resnick and Blum (2002) hypothesized that there are many aspects involving the decisions adolescents make in regards to becoming sexually active. The study consisted of various independent and dependent variables. The independent variables within the experiment were composed of sociodemographic and personal characteristics: race, socioeconomic status (SES), parental marital status, geographic area of residence, school performance, religious feelings, emotional health, suicidal risk, parental expectations in general, perceived availability of a caring adult, social concerns, amount of regular exercise, substance abuse, and body pride. The dependent variable was time to an event; in this experiment, the event was sexual intercourse and the time was age at first intercourse (Lammers et al, 2002).

The study revealed that the proportion of sexually experienced youth increased with age for both genders. Among females, 16.3%, 36.8%, and 55.2% of students age 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18 years had ever had intercourse (Lammers et al, 2002). The male percentages were 29.3%, 47%, and 60.2%. The variables associated with non-initiation of sexual intercourse for both genders included dual-parent families, higher SES, residing in rural areas, better school performance, greater religiosity, absence of suicidal thoughts, believing adults or parents cared and higher parental expectations. In all age groups and both genders, high levels of body pride were associated with higher levels of sexual activity.

Sociodemographic factors predominated as correlates of delaying sexual intercourse across age groups for males: parents marital status (married parents), higher SES, and living in a rural area. There was also an association with higher school performance and the delay in onset of sexual intercourse (Lammers et al, 2002). These results were similar for females. Sociodemographic variables prevailed as correlates across age groups in decreasing the probability of early onset of sexual intercourse: having married parents, higher SES, and rural residence. Thus, studies have been performed to show correlations between external factors such as family structure and adolescent’s sexual activity (Lammers et al, 2002).

The United States government gives every citizen equal rights. The government has laws that we must abide by within society. However, moral decisions such as when to engage in sex are not regulated by law. As humans, we have the ability to make our own choices. We are responsible for our own actions. I believe that some of the decisions that teenagers make are having a negative effect on families and societies overall.

Due to many adolescents being sexually active, the overall health of families has declined. Wallace and Warner (2002) reports on how the social problem of adolescent sexual activity affects families: “The rise in teenage pregnancy and illegitimacy has contributed to an unprecedented breakdown of the family, the building block of a healthy society. Mothers head 84 percent of all single-parent families in the United States. Further, about 40 percent of children who live in these homes have not seen their father in at least one year. Many of these fathers have abandoned their financial responsibility, leaving largely uneducated, unskilled women dependent upon the welfare system. In 1998, the median family income for two-parent families was more than four times that of families in which the mother never married. Sadly, studies show that children born out-of-wedlock are more likely to repeat the cycle. In fact, daughters of single parents are ‘164 percent more likely to have a premarital birth of their own, 111 percent more likely to give birth as teenagers, and 92 percent more likely to divorce than daughters of married parents’ (p. 4).” When teenagers become parents, it affects their physical health, social, psychological and economic stability. Unmarried teenage mothers are more likely to end up at the bottom of the economic ladder (Wallace and Warner, 2002). I believe that this causes many families to become stuck in a cycle of poverty.

Unfortunately, teenage parents enter the welfare system and are usually housed in impoverished neighborhoods. I believe that these neighborhoods encourage negative thinking. The negative thinking by families who live in impoverished neighborhoods increases the likelihood that families will remain stuck in poor living conditions. After reading this information on adolescent sexual behavior, I began to have thoughts and questions regarding adolescent sexual activity. I asked myself ‘what are people doing to address this concern’ and ‘where should the intervention start.’ I believe that intervention should involve all immediate family members, which are the parents and siblings of teenagers. Unfortunately, although parents may get involved, I believe the struggle involves the images portrayed by the media. In my opinion, the media tends to glorify sex, violence, women, and money. The images shown by the media can affect adolescence way of thinking and their decision making.

This knowledge about adolescent sexual behaviors keeps me aware of the trends among today’s youth and how their actions affect their families. This knowledge is going to allow me to brainstorm possible methods of intervention that would encourage the youth to make healthy decisions. The knowledge I have obtained has encouraged me to be a part of the solution. Solutions will only develop when professionals discover ways to engage the youth in improving their present situations and plan for successful futures.

Implications for Social Work and Use in Practice

With their being a large number of adolescents engaging in sexual behavior, it is implied that social workers may take on many roles in addressing the social problem. Social workers can hold the position of an enabler, mediator, manager, educator and a broker (Kirst-Ashman and Zastro, 2007). As an enabler, a social worker can help adolescents and their families cope with the arrival of a baby from a teenage mother. As a mediator, the social worker can aid in resolving conflicts among micro, mezzo or macro systems (Kirst-Ashman and Zastro, 2007). For example, the worker can aid a teenager in the conflict of lost paperwork when trying to receive WIC and Medicaid, which would be of great use with her newborn child.

A social worker can take on the role of a manager by planning programs which would assist parents with improving their communication with their teenagers about sex (Kirst-Ashman and Zastro, 2007). As an educator, a social worker can to provide information to teenagers and their families on the type of sex education and HIV programs available for them to attend within their community. Lastly, as a broker, the social worker can link adolescents and their families with community resources and services (Kirst-Ashman and Zastro, 2007).

This research on adolescent sexual behavior keeps mental health professionals abreast to the problems faced by teenagers that are affecting the families. This information can guide professionals as to which therapeutic approach is best to use to address teenage and family concerns. Research assists institutions and agencies in the development of intervention and prevention programs, possible solutions that can address adolescent sexual behavior.


CDC. (2006). Sexual Risk Behaviors. Retrieved from

Kirst-Ashman, Karen K. and Charles Zastrow. (2007).Understanding Human Behavior
and the Social Environment. (7th ed.) Belmont, California: Thompson Brooks/Cole.

Lammers, Christina, Marjorie Ireland, Michael Resnick and Robert Blum. (2000).
Influences on Adolescents’ Decision to Postpone Onset of Sexual Intercourse: A Survival Analysis of Virginity among Youths Aged 13 to 18 Years. Journal of Adolescent Health, 26, 42-48.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2005). National Youth Risk Behavior
Survey: 1991-2005. Retrieved from

Wallace, Maian and Vanessa Warner. (2002). Abstinence: Why Sex is Worth the Wait.
Retrieved from

Author's Bio: 

Lakeisha McKnight is an entrepreneur, life coach, motivational speaker, author, minister, and social worker by profession. She is an experienced expert in field of goal setting, spiritual growth and leadership as she is a Doctor in Strategic Leadership Candidate (2012) at Regent University. Through her relationship with God, Lakeisha knows what it takes to have a vision, develop goals, and see them through to their completion. Lakeisha is the CEO of two companies: 1)a faith-based nonprofit organization name Kingdom Expansion Enterprises Inc. and 2) an empowerment company name Power4 Life. Lakeisha’s ultimate goal is to develop aspiring leaders and help them reach their fullest potential.