This article was originally written by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, received July 1, 2013. It is reprinted as written in its entirety with permission.
In May 2013, the CDC released the report Decline in State Teen Birth Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin.1 This report includes four important findings. First, the teen birth rates fell by at least 15% for all but two states during 2007 – 2011. In fact, seven of these states recorded a decrease of about 30% or more.1
Second, this decline in teen birth rates was most rapid in Hispanic teenagers who achieved a 34% reduction, followed by non-Hispanic Blacks at 24% and non-Hispanic white teens at 20%.1
Third, the recorded long-term difference between teen birth rates for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanic teenagers had gradually disappeared over five years of follow-up data from 2007 – 2011, and the rates had become virtually identical for both groups in 2011, the most current year for which data is available.1,2
Fourth, the rates for Hispanic teens fell about 40% or more in 22 states and the District of Columbia.1 In all, rates for Hispanic teens decreased by at least 30% in 37 states and DC.1
Although this decrease has been attributed to an increased use of contraception (long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), oral contraceptive pills, and condoms) among teenagers;3 the number of teens who have initiated sexual intercourse or are currently sexually active has been on the decline.4 This trend has also been a contributory factor in decreasing teen pregnancies and consequently teen births. However; the rates of sexually transmitted infections have been on the rise among sexually active teenagers and young adults aged 15 – 24 years.5
Even with the record decline among all populations of teens; especially in minority populations, the work is not yet done in making sure this trend is sustained among teens of all ethnic groups. Focusing on sexual health education, character training, and parenting education at the community level are all initiatives that could address different needs of various populations within the US. Currently, the Medical Institute offers training to health educators and community liaisons to teach these topics to parents in a wide range of communities across the US.
Surveys continue to show that parents are very influential in the sexual decision making of their children but that parents are frequently unaware of this influence.5 Therefore, it is important for parents to be prepared to discuss these topics with their children. Increasing the involvement of parents in the sexual and character education of their children offers the opportunity to capitalize on the unique position of influence that parents hold and to deliver the message in an individualized, culturally-appropriate way.
We cannot underestimate the role of a number of social factors that influence the sexual behavior of teenagers. However, evaluation studies have shown a common thread in the positive effect of parental communication and connectedness in delaying sexual initiation and helping young people make healthy sexual decisions.6
The decline in teen birth rates is a welcome development. However, the STI rates among this population have been increasing. Working towards a reduction in the rates of other attendant negative outcomes of early sexual initiation such as sexually transmitted diseases and emotional consequences is also critical. Consequently, a risk avoidance prevention message continues to take priority in achieving this goal. Avoiding all risky behaviors is the most reliable way to prevent the myriad of adverse outcomes associated with such behaviors. By emphasizing risk avoidance messages; parents, parenting adults and educators can guide youth towards making the healthiest decisions and leading productive lives.
About Medical Institute for Sexual Health
The mission of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health is “To empower safe, healthy living by communicating objective and scientific sexual health information.” MI is focusing on five initiatives: Parent Education, Adolescent and College Education, Sex in Media, Medical Accuracy, and Medical Education. These initiatives will facilitate access to medically accurate, evidence-based sexual health information.” The Medical Institute offers a wealth of information and resources relating to sexual health. For additional information, visit https://www.medinstitute.org/.
- Hamilton BE, Mathews TJ, Ventura SJ. Declines in state teen birth rates by race and Hispanic origin. NCHS data brief, no 123. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db123.htm . Accessed June 28, 2013.
- Hamilton BE, Ventura SJ. Birth rates for U.S. teenagers reach historic lows for all age and ethnic groups. NCHS data brief, no 89. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db89.htm . Accessed June 28, 2013.
- Martinez G, Copen CE, Abma JC. Teenagers in the United States: Sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 23(31). 2011.
- CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2011. MMWR. 2012;61(No. SS-4). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6104.pdf . Accessed June 28, 2013.
- Satterwhite CL, et al. Sexually transmitted infections among U.S. women and men: prevalence and incidence estimates, 2008. Sex Transm Dis 2013; 40(3): 187-193.
- Albert, B. (2012). With One Voice 2012: America’s Adults and Teens sound Off About Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Available at: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/wov/ . Accessed June 28, 2013.
- Markham CM, Lormand D, Gloppen KM, Peskin MF, Flores B, Low B, House LD. Connectedness as a predictor of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for youth. J Adolesc Health.2010; 46(3):S23-S41.