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Home Alone and Having Sex

Home Alone and Having Sex

WebMD Health News

Dec. 2, 2002 -- Forget lover's lane and the backseat of a borrowed car on a Saturday night, most teens are having sex at home after school. A new study shows 91% of sexually active high school students last had sex in a home setting, such as their own home, their partner's home, or at a friend's house. And prime time for sexual activity is before their parents get home from work.

The survey of urban teens also found that the more time teenagers spent unsupervised after school, the more likely they were to be sexually active, have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), or, in the case of boys, use tobacco or alcohol.

The results appear in the December issue of Pediatrics.

Researchers say the findings show boosting participation in after-school activities and increasing adult supervision at home or at community centers are worth considering as tools to help reduce risky behaviors like sex and drug use among youth. Until now, most interventions have focused primarily on promoting abstinence, refusal skills, and negotiation tactics.

The survey involved about 2,000 students from six urban public high schools who participated in a school-based STD screening program. Ninety-eight percent of the students were black and most lived in a single-parent home.

More than half of the students said they were at home without adult supervision for four or more hours per day after school; there was no difference in the number of unsupervised hours after school between children living in one- or two-parent homes.

Researchers found teens that were unsupervised for 30 or more hours per week were more likely to be sexually active compared to those who were unsupervised for five hours or less a week (80% vs. 68%). Among the 91% of teens who said the last time they had sex was in a home setting, 37% had sex in their own home, 43% at their partner's home, and 12% at a friend's house.

Fifty-six percent of the youths who had intercourse said it happened on a weekday, and 35% reported that it happened before 6 p.m. versus 21% after 6 p.m.

The effects of a lack of adult supervision were especially pronounced among males. Boys who were unsupervised for more than five hours per week after school were twice as likely to have gonorrhea or chlamydia infection as boys who were unsupervised less than five hours a week.

In addition, researchers found that the greater the number of unsupervised hours among boys, the higher the number of lifetime sexual partners the boys reported. Tobacco and alcohol use were also linked to larger amounts of unsupervised time among boys, but not girls.

Researcher Deborah Cohen, MD, MPH, of the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., and colleagues say that given the association between lack of supervision and sexual behavior and substance use, increasing adult supervision may be an underutilized strategy.

"Parents and community members should consider increasing opportunities for supervised activities to determine whether this will reduce risk-taking among youths," they write.

In fact, the study found that students who participated in after-school activities were less likely to be sexually active than those who didn't participate (71% versus 59%).

SOURCE: Pediatrics, December 2002. -->

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