Mignon R. Moore
Teenage pregnancy and parenthood have always existed. However, before 1975 they received little attention or comment in the United States. In brief, the rapid rise in the number of younger adolescents having intercourse, in their birthrate, and in babies born to single teenage mothers all contributed to concern about early parenthood (Brooks-Gunn and Furstenberg, 1989; Coley and Chase-Lansdale, 1998; Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, and Chase-Lansdale, 1989; Maynard, 1997; Moore et al., 1993). The upward trend witnessed in the 1980s regarding the proportion of European American and African American adolescent girls who had never had sexual intercourse was followed by stabilization in 1990s rates of sexual debut, although the percentage of Latina adolescents initiating intercourse continued to increase. By the mid-1990s, 60% of African American, 56% of Latin American, and 51% of non-Hispanic European American teenagers between 15 and 19 years old reported having initiated intercourse (Besharov and Gardiner, 1997; Singh and Darroch, 1999). Approximately 77% of females and 85% of males report having initiated intercourse by the age of 20 years (Brown, 2000). Moreover, sexual intercourse is also becoming increasingly common for young women earlier in adolescence (Brooks-Gunn and Paikoff, 1993).
Although there has been a steady increase in the percentage of sexually experienced teenagers reporting current use of a contraceptive method during intercourse, the frequency of contraceptive use among youth continues to be inconsistent (Piccinino and Mosher, 1998). Although adolescent males reported using condoms more frequently in the 1990s than earlier (36% in the 1980s and 54% in the 1990s [Ku, Sonenstein, and Pleck, 1992], a response in part to concerns about HIV and AIDS, Brooks-Gunn and Furstenberg, 1990; Sonenstein, Pleck, and Ku, 1989), most boys and girls do not use contraceptives every time they have intercourse (Besharov and Gardner, 1997; Glei, 1999; Piccinino and Mosher, 1998); unprotected sexual intercourse, then, is common.