Understanding changes in sexual activity among young metropolitan men: 1979-1995

Leighton Ku, Freya L. Sonenstein, Laura D. Lindberg, Carolyn H. Bradner, Scott Boggess, Joseph H. Pleck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Context: Changes in the sexual behavior of teenagers can have a significant impact on levels of adolescent pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Understanding the role played by attitudes and educational efforts will provide critical prevention information. Methods: Data on the sexual behavior, sexual attitudes, educational experiences and demographics of 2,087 never-married metropolitan males aged 17-19 from the 1979 National Survey of Young Men and the 1988 and 1995 waves of the National Survey of Adolescent Males were analyzed through multivariate methods to examine factors that predict sexual behavior as well as those that predict sexual attitudes. Results: The percentage of males aged 17-19 who had ever had sex increased from 66% in 1979 to 76% in 1988 and then decreased to 68% in 1995. The frequency of sexual intercourse in the year prior to the survey increased significantly over time, although the lifetime number of sexual partners did not. Acceptance of premarital sex increased significantly from 1979 to 1988, then decreased significantly from 1988 to 1995. Over time, young men were increasingly likely to prefer having and supporting a baby to marriage, abortion or adoption as the resolution to a nonmarital pregnancy. Trends in attitudes were strongly associated with sexual behaviors, with more conservative attitudes predicting less sexual activity AIDS education, which was nearly universal in 1995, was associated with decreased sexual activity although not among black youths. Conclusions: More conservative sexual attitudes and increased exposure to AIDS education are key predictors of decreased sexual activity among adolescent males. However, broader societal factors, such as fear of AIDS and increased awareness of problems associated with teenage pregnancy and STDs, may underlie both attitudinal and behavioral changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-262
Number of pages7
JournalFamily Planning Perspectives
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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