NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Teens' Peers Strongly Influence Choices About Sex

October 5, 2001

According to a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young teens who believe their friends disapprove of sexual activity among their peers are less likely to have sex themselves.

For the study, the team interviewed 405 teens aged 13 to 15.

According to the lead study author, Dr. Colleen DiIorio of Emory University, HIV and pregnancy prevention programs should emphasize peer influences in both the initiation of sexual intercourse and the use of safer sex practices among sexually active adolescents.

The programs should also emphasize "personal attitudes about consequences to self and confidence in negotiating safer sex practices with one's partner." The researchers report:

  • Adolescents who said they never had sex were more likely to have friends who disapproved of sexual intercourse among youths in their age group.
  • Teens chose friends and maintained friendships with those who shared their views about sex or because their "friends' behaviors and verbal statements helped them form their own perceptions."

Furthermore, the non-sexually active teens reported having more positive expectancies about not having sex-such as feeling more responsible about themselves and knowing that they will not get AIDS-than did their sexually active peers. They also scored high on a scale that measured their ability to resist pressure to have sex.

Source: Colleen Diiorio et al., "Social cognitive correlates of sexual experience and condom use among 13- through 15-year-old adolescents," Journal of Adolescent Health, September 2001; "Teens' peers strongly influence choices about sex," Reuters Health, October 03, 2001.


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