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Pre-Marital Sex Report Now Available

December 21, 2006

The Guttmacher Institute now has a press release up with a link to a PDF download of the report on pre-marital sex mentioned in yesterday’s post.

The report uses data from the 1982, 1988, 1995, and 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, avoluntary, in-person survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to collect information “on family life, marriage and divorce, pregnancy, infertility, use of birth control, sexual experience, and men’s and women’s health.” The report defines premarital sex as having had sex prior to the month of first marriage or having had sex but never having been married by the time of the survey, and “sex” is defined as vaginal intercourse.

Among the results:

  • “males were slightly more likely to have had premarital sex at virtually every age; by exact age 44, 96% of males and 94% of females had had premarital sex”
  • “Figure 2 and the Table show premarital sex proportions using data from all four surveys (for women only) by 10-year cohort. The figure and table show a trend from the 1950s through the 1990s toward a higher proportion experiencing premarital sex: 48% of the cohort who turned 15 from 1954 to 1963 had done so by exact age 20, while 65% of the 1964–73 cohort, 72% of the 1974–83 cohort, and 76% of the 1984–93 cohort had done so. For the 1994–2003 cohort, 74% had had premarital sex by exact age 20, a figure between that of the 1974–83 and 1984–93 cohorts.”
  • Interpretation: More premarital sex among women now, but for those of you who are my age – your moms were lying to you.🙂

  • “The slight decrease between the 1984–93 and 1994–2003 cohorts was not statistically significant.”
  • “The increase seen beginning with the 1964–73 cohort may be partly due to increased availability of effective contraception (in particular, the pill), which made it less likely that sex would lead to pregnancy; but even among women who were born in the 1940s, nearly nine in ten had had premarital sex by age 44. Among those who did not have sex at all during their teen years, eight in ten eventually had premarital sex.”
  • “Ninety-four percent of those who abstained until at least age 15 and 89% of those who abstained until at least age 18 had had premarital sex by age 44. Even among the 28% of the population who had not had sex by age 20, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44.”
    So abstinence-only sex is is just fine for about 28% of kids. The other 72% maybe could use some information.

Again, the Guttmacher Institute has an established stance against abstinence-only sex ed, and indeed this report starts and ends with discussion of how current policies may not reflect the reality of the situation. If you want to be absolutely certain, you’ll have to go crunch the numbers yourself. Still, something to think about.

Citation: Finer LB. Trends in premarital sex in the United States, 1954-2003. Public Health Rep. 2007 Jan-Feb;122(1):73-8.

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