One in Four Tweens Believe Sex is Normal Part of “Going Steady”

A disturbing study from Teenage Research Unlimited found that half of “tweens” ages 11 to 14 years old are in a steady dating relationship, and one in four believes that sex is a normal part of “going steady.” Almost two-thirds said they knew someone who had been abused by a dating partner, and 25% said dating violence is a serious problem.

The study, sponsored by Loveisrespect.org and Liz Claiborne, involved a survey of 1000 tweens from all demographic groups.

Psychologist Vivian Freedman said this age group is “skipping the stage of walking each other home from school,” and they believe that sex is what you do when you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Because they are too young for committed relationships, they experience more jealousy and anger.

The study found that tweens have sex in places their parents could not imagine, such as during parties.

Freedman believes tweens today are less happy and lonelier, so they try to fill a void with peer relationships.

All Girls Should be Vaccinated Against Sexually-transmitted Virus

A new study in the journal Pediatrics indicates that human papillomavirus is so common that all girls ages 11 to 25 years old should be vaccinated against it, regardless of their sexual experience.

The virus is sexually transmitted. Some varieties lead to genital warts or cervical cancer, although the virus usually goes away on its own. Many parents of young adolescent girls are reluctant to have their daughters vaccinated because the girls are not sexually active.

Researchers at the University of Michigan studied the sexual behaviors of 3,180 adolescent girls and found no links between being infected and the number of sexual partners, their usage of drug, alcohol and cigarettes or having sex while intoxicated.

Author Dr. Amanda Dempsey said, “You really can’t pick out one or two behaviors that predict if you’ve been exposed to HPV. It is just so common and so easily transmitted from person to person that it doesn’t take more than one partner to get exposed.”

 College Girls Say HPV Virus is Easy to Get

One-third of females who have only one sex partner are infected within the first year with HPV, and by the third year, half are infected, according to a survey from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dr. Rachel Winer had 125 college women keep diaries and undergo gynecological examinations over a three-year period. Among the findings in her study was that the more partners a male had, the more likely he was to infect a woman, even she had only one partner.

The results of this study are similar to findings from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. Researchers there found that 46% of girls got the infection even when they had only one partner.

There is a HPV vaccine given to girls ages 9 to 26 years old, and the Winer study suggests it should be given before females are sexually active.

“HPV is the common cold of sexually-transmitted infections,” said Dr. Anne Burchell, an expert on HPV transmission at McGill University. “If you leave the house in winter, you’re probably going to catch a cold. And HPV is like that. If you’re sexually active, you’re quite likely to get it at least at one point in your life.”

The Washington study appears in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“Work-based Sex-ed” for Parents Better than Classes in Schools

A new study of “work-based sex education for parents” increased parent/teen home discussions about menstruation, birth control, wet dreams and other difficult topics.

Researchers enrolled over 500 parents of teenagers in eight weekly sessions at their work places in a program called “Talking with Your Teens about Tough Issues.” Participants reported that after taking the course, they became more comfortable initiating difficult discussions with their teens about sexual issues.

Some experts believe that teaching parents to educate their teens about such matters might work better than having the public schools do it partly because there is so much disagreement about whether to use abstinence-only programs.

This study appears in the British Medical Journal.

Stepfathers Can Influence Boys But Not Girls’ Sex Habits

Stepfathers can influence their stepsons to curb their sexual activities, but the effect does not hold for stepdaughters, according to a new study from Ball State University.

Dr. Chad Menning interviewed 923 middle- and high school students who had stepfathers. A strong relationship with a stepfather lowered a boy’s chances for sexual activity. However, among girls, religion and their mothers’ attitudes had more influence.

Dr. Menning said that his research has implications for gender-based designs for sexual education.

Research Indicates Sex Ed Teachers Are Uncomfortable Teaching Their Subject

Teachers, parents, and school administrators are in the middle of a controversy about how to present sex education classes to teenagers. Many want abstinence-only curriculum, while others want schools to teach birth control.

A new study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology indicates that almost a third of instructors teaching sex education have no formal training, and another two-thirds do not teach students how to use condoms. Although many students are sexually active, they are not getting information in sex education classes about how to talk to their partners about sex and contraceptives.

The author of the study, Dr. Stacy Tessler Lindau, is a doctor and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago. She says, “Teachers are not being trained, they are not comfortable teaching sex ed, and if the teachers are not comfortable, it’s unlikely students are comfortable with the knowledge they are getting in school.”

Group Protests Library’s Link to Planned Parenthood

About 50 parents have asked the Batavia (Illinois) Public Library to remove a link on its website that connects users with Teenwire, a sex education site developed by Planned Parenthood.

According to the Kane County Chronicle, Kerry Knott of Concerned Families for Batavia told library board members at a June 17 meeting that “there’s no way teens can look at this and get accurate information.” Scott Russell, who is also a member of CFB, also expressed his displeasure at the meeting, noting that Teenwire is “encouraging teenagers to use birth control, not abstinence.”

A report on the American Library Association website indicates that the protests lodged during the June 17 board meeting were the latest in a series of efforts to force the library to change its site:

Concerned Families for Batavia had previously filed a complaint about the link with the library, asking that it be removed or that the library require teens to get parental permission to view the page. 

 A library staff committee recommended maintaining unfettered access to the link in May because the library considers the site accurate and because it has received positive reviews and awards, BPL Director George Scheetz told American Libraries. 

 Scheetz noted that, as a result of the review, the library has added a link to FamilyDoctor.org’s For Teens page, which Knott recommended as an alternative to Teenwire. “We’re really focusing on information and accuracy and provided well-rounded resources for our community,” Scheetz added.

Pam Sutherland, an official at Planned Parenthood Illinois, told Chicago-area newspaper The Daily Herald that complaints of inaccurate information on Teenwire were unfounded.

 “One thing Planned Parenthood has always prided itself on is giving medically accurate information,” Sutherland told Herald staff writer Leslie Hague. “Teens come to the Web site because they need information about all of their decisions.”