Did you happen to see the report that came out today regarding teenagers and sexual behavior? Published in the journal Pediatrics, the report is based on survey data from the latest edition of The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was administered to 17,220 New York City high school students. The Associated Press ran a story by Karen Matthews summarizing the report’s findings.
Here’s some of what you need to know about today’s teens:
-7,261 of the students who completed the survey said they had had sexual intercourse.
-93.1 percent of the sexually active males had only had sexual contact with female partners.
-3.2 percent of the sexually active males said they’d had contact only with other males.
-3.7 percent of the sexually active males had had both male and female sexual partners.
-88.1 percent of the sexually active females said they’d only had sex with males.
-3.2 percent of the sexually active females said they’d only had sex with female partners.
-8.7 percent of sexually active females said they’d had sex with both male and female partners.
-Among all the sexually active teens, 9.3 percent reported having at least one same-sex partner.
-Of all the teens who reported having at least one same-sex partner, 38.9 percent said that they were “heterosexual” or “straight.”
-Among girls who reported having both male and female partners, 35.8 percent said they had experienced dating violence during the previous year.
-Among boys who reported having both male and female partners, 34.8 percent reported experiencing dating violence during the previous year.
How do you process this data? What does it make you think about kid’s and today’s culture? How does it make you feel about what our kids are learning and how they’re living those lessons out?
How we process and respond to these issues reveals much about our worldview and how that informs our values, attitudes, and behaviors. That’s certainly the case with something I read in Karen Matthews’ article. Matthews reports, “Advocates said the results point to the need for public health messages to target behavior, not identity.” Think about that for a minute. Isn’t there something lacking and foundationally wrong in that prescription?
Because I am an integrated being. . . even when my actions don’t coincide with my stated beliefs and convictions . . . I ultimately act out who I believe I am. . . whether that belief is something I’ve consciously or unconsciously assimilated into my life. And when the great task of adolescence is identity formation and the figuring out of who I am, doesn’t it make sense that we invest our time and effort into helping our kids establish their identity? As people who follow Christ and believe that our identity is found in the One who made us for Himself, doesn’t that say quite a bit about the focus we need in our ministries to kids? You see, if my identity is wrapped up in anything less than that which transcends me, myself, and I. . . well, then I can do and be anything I want to do and be.
I think this study issues a loud and clear call to the Church. . . we must think seriously about how to reach kids with the message of where to ultimately find their identity. . . and what that means for all of life. I’m not sure that anything else can effect lasting behavioral change. . . or serve them well as they discover the purpose for their God-given sexuality.