U.S. teens less worried about pregnancy: survey

WASHINGTON Wed Jun 2, 2010 1:03pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American teenagers are using condoms more when they have sex but some may be losing their fear of pregnancy, according to a government survey released on Wednesday.

The survey on teen sex found that 95 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds who had ever had sex had used a condom at least once. But it also found that just 12 percent of boys who had avoided sex did so because they feared getting a girl pregnant.

"Attitude measures show that most teens are motivated to avoid a pregnancy," the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics reads.

But it showed those fears fading as attitudes change toward having children outside of marriage. Only 47 percent of unmarried teen males said they would be "very upset" if they got a partner pregnant, while 58 percent females would.

The NCHS researchers sat down in the homes of 2,767 teens across the United States to get detailed data on sexual behavior.

They found that 42 percent of 15- to 19-year-old girls had ever had sex and 43 percent of boys, which they said was not a significant change from 2002.

The findings are important, as teenagers are more likely than adults to become infected with sexually transmitted diseases, including the AIDS virus.

And teen parents are less likely to pursue further education, their children are less likely to be healthy, and they earn less on average than people who have children later.

"The U.S. birth rate for females 15-19 years of age was 42.5 births per 1,000 females in 2007," the report reads.

"That rate was higher than a number of other developed countries in the world." Canada, for instance, has a teen birth rate of 13 per 1,000, one-third the U.S. rate; Germany's is 10 per 1,000 and Italy's just 7 per 1,000.

The U.S. teen birth rate has declined since 1991, however, when it peaked at nearly 62 per 1,000 females.

PREVENTING SEX

Politicians, activists and parents disagree on how best to get teens to put off sex. The survey shows that teenagers most commonly cite religion or morals as a reason to avoid having sex.

"The second and third most common reasons for females were 'don't want to get pregnant' and 'haven't found the right person yet'," the report reads.

It found that most teenagers do not frown on having children outside of marriage, however.

"The majority of teens -- 64 percent of males and 71 percent of females -- 'agree' or 'strongly agree' that 'it is okay for an unmarried female to have a child'," the report reads.

Most teenagers, 79 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys, used some kind of contraception, mostly the condom.

Yet more than a third, 36 percent, of young men said they believed using a condom would reduce their pleasure. Condoms are the only method that can reduce the risk of transmitting diseases.

"The 2006-2008 data showed that teen females had used a wider array of hormonal methods than was possible in previous years: substantial percentages had ever used emergency contraception (17 percent), the contraceptive patch (11 percent), and the contraceptive ring (7 percent)," the report reads.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Xavier Briand)

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