Teen Dating and Sex Hit Record Lows for Recent Decades


Teens today just aren’t that into dating or sex, compared to decades past.

Compared to the teens of decades past, today’s adolescents just aren’t that into dating or sex. New analyses of 40 years of data (1976-2016) show that the percentage of 12th graders who have ever gone on a date has never been lower. A quarter-century of data on teenage sex (1990-2016) indicates that the percentage of students in the 9th through 12th grades who have ever had sex has also reached a low point. The research report, by Jean Twenge of San Diego State University, and Heejung Park of Bryn Mawr College was just released by the journal Child Development.

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As the authors noted:

     “Twelfth graders in the early 2010s went out on dates about as often as 10th graders did in the early 1990s. Having sex went from being the majority experience for high school students (54 percent of 9th to 12th graders in 1991) to the minority experience (41 percent in 2015).”

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The decline in these behaviors and other activities the authors describe as typically associated with adulthood was not specific to particular demographic groups. It occurred for “boys and girls, Whites and Blacks, lower SES and higher SES adolescents, in all four regions of the United States, and in rural, urban, and suburban locations.”


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Percentage of 12th graders who had ever gone on a date

The research on dating among high school seniors was based on more than half-million 12th graders surveyed between 1976 and 2016. (Eighth and 10th graders were included from 1990 through 2016.) The authors analyzed the data in 5-year intervals.

In the three time periods between 1976 and 1989 (1976-1979; 1980-1984; and 1985-1989), the share of 12th graders who had ever gone on a date was either 86 percent or 87 percent. The percentages for the subsequent years are below. Notice that percentages decrease consistently over time.

Percentage of 12th graders who had ever gone on a date:

  • 1990-1994: 84 percent
  • 1995-1999: 81 percent
  • 2000-2004: 76 percent
  • 2005-2009: 71 percent
  • 2010-2016: 63 percent

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Percent of high-schoolers who had ever had sex

The research on the percent of high-schoolers who had ever had sex was based on data collected in surveys, starting in 1991. More than 175,000 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders participated.

Between the early 1990s (1990-1994) and the early 2010s (2010-2015), the percent who ever had sex declined for every age group:

  • 9th graders: 38 percent to 29 percent
  • 10th graders: 47 percent to 40 percent
  • 11th graders: 59 percent to 52 percent
  • 12th graders: 68 percent to 62 percent

Read the full article on Psychology Today

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