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Sexuality in Adolescence

Racial, National, And Ethnic Diversity

Sexual intercourse experience among female adolescents in the United States tends to be comparable to other industrialized nations, below rates of many sub-Saharan African nations, and higher than most Latin American nations. About 81 percent of females in the United States experience sexual intercourse before the age of twenty compared to 81 percent in Germany, 73 percent in France, and 87 percent in Britain (Alan Guttmacher Institute 1998). In sub-Saharan Africa, a higher proportions of female adolescents have sexual intercourse: over 90 percent experience intercourse in nations such as Botswana and Uganda (91%), Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo (92%), Cameroon and the Central African Republic (94%), Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Mali (95%), and Liberia (98%) (Alan Guttmacher Institute 1998). Females in Burundi and Rwanda differ from other African teenagers, with only 46 percent and 43 percent respectively having intercourse before age twenty. The percentage engaging in sexual intercourse as teenagers seems to be linked with patterns of early or delayed marriage in several of these African nations. In Botswana and Burkina Faso, the percentage who have sex before age twenty is similar, but marital status is very different: 81 percent of female Botswanans first have intercourse as teenagers before marriage, whereas only 25 percent of women in Burkina Faso experience sexual debut before marriage. In Latin American countries, lower percentages of young women are sexually experienced before age twenty than in either sub-Saharan Africa or the United States. From lowest to highest, the percentages are Peru (45%), Mexico (46%), El Salvador (49%), Dominican Republic (50%), Ecuador (51%), Trinidad and Tobago (57%), Bolivia (58%), Paraguay (61%), Brazil (62%), Colombia (62%), and Guatemala (64%) (Alan Guttmacher Institute 1998). Table 1 summarizes percentages of teenage sexual intercourse in select Latin-American, sub-Saharan African, and developed nations (Alan Guttmacher Institute 1998).

Premarital adolescent sexual intercourse varies widely between the various racial and ethnic groups within the United States. In the United States 79 percent of African Americans and 54 percent of Latinos between fifteen and nineteen years of age have had sexual intercourse (Perkins et al. 1998). European-Americans have a much lower rate of sexual intercourse experience (37%) and Asian-Americans have the lowest rate (16%). Among teenagers age fifteen to nineteen years, African-American and Latino teenagers tend to have the earliest sexual debut, greatest number of sexual partners, and highest frequency of intercourse (Perkins et al. 1998). Such findings are explained, at least in part, by racial/ethnic differences in socioeconomic status and other demographic factors.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Health IssuesSexuality in Adolescence - Sexual Intercourse Patterns In The United States, Racial, National, And Ethnic Diversity, Relationships And Sexual Activity