Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Sexual Experience, Contraception, and STI Prevention among High School Students: Results from a Canadian Urban Centre

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Sexual Experience, Contraception, and STI Prevention among High School Students: Results from a Canadian Urban Centre

Article excerpt

Abstract: High school students in grades 10 (n=1,120) and 12 (n=1,233) in a Canadian urban centre completed a 73-item questionnaire concerning their sexual health-related knowledge, opinions, and behaviour. This paper reports on the percentage of students of different ages who have had intercourse, their contraceptive use and STI prevention at first intercourse, and their perceptions of their parents' attitudes toward their having intercourse. Overall, 31.7% of grade 10 students (average age 15.6 years) and 52.6% of grade 12 students (average age 17.6 years) reported ever having had sexual intercourse. Grade 12 females were more likely to have had intercourse than grade 12 males (57.1% versus 48.2%) a gender difference not present in grade 10. Recent frequency of intercourse varied considerably for both sexes with 50.1% of all students who had ever had intercourse reporting once or twice per week or more often in the last 3 months and 28.9% less than once a month. At first intercourse, 80% of these students reported using contraception (pill, condom or both with an additional 5% reporting withdrawal); 72% reported STI prevention (i.e., condom use). Overall, about three quarters of students who had not had intercourse and half of those who had felt that their parents would strongly or somewhat disapprove. The findings are discussed in relation to other recent research on adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

Keywords: Adolescent sexuality STI prevention Age at first intercourse Intercourse frequency Contraception Parental attitudes


Recent reviews of trends in adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Canada (Maticka-Tyndale, 2001; Maticka-Tyndale, Barrett, & McKay, 2000) and other developed countries (Darroch, Singh, & Frost, 2001) have highlighted the need for strong national and regional data bases that employ comparable measures of sexual behaviour, contraceptive use, and STI prevention. The present study used a number of such measures in a sexual health behaviour and opinion survey of 2,353 high school students in Regina, Saskatchewan. The study was part of an evaluation of Planned Parenthood Regina's Sexual Health Centre (SHC) (Smith et al., 2001). The findings reported here deal specifically with the percentage of students who have had intercourse, age at first intercourse, contraception and STI prevention at first intgrcourse, recent intercourse frequency, and students' perceptions of their mothers' and fathers' feelings about their having sexual intercourse. The study provides a timely opportunity to place these results from a medium-sized urban centre in western Canada within the larger context of national and international trends in adolescent sexual behaviour.


Although teen sexual activity includes more than sexual intercourse, intercourse experience continues to be widely used as a potentially informative measure of sexual behaviour. It can serve as an indicator of social change over time and of the potential for unintended pregnancy and STIs and the concurrent need for sexual health education and services. Researchers usually report either the percentage of teens who have ever had intercourse (e.g., the Canada Youth and AIDS Study, King et al., 1988) or median age at first intercourse (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 2000), which is the preferred measure for trends in intercourse experience over time in different cohorts of 15- to 19-year-olds.

In developed countries such as Canada, the United States, Sweden, and Australia, the gradual trend toward earlier age of first intercourse that began in the 1950s and accelerated in the 1970s and 1980s (Kahn, Brindis, & Glei, 1999; Maticka-Tyndale et al., 2000) has shown some stabilization and even decline in the 1990s. For example, recent reviews from the National Center for Health Statistics in the United States indicate that the proportion of never-married U. …

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