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Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 06:27 GMT
Smart teenagers 'delay sex'
Study examined teenagers' sexual habits
Smarter adolescents start having sexual relations later than teens of average intelligence, researchers have found.

According to US scientists, intelligent adolescents also tend to postpone any kind of lesser sexual activity - from holding hands and kissing to heavy petting.

Ambition is the best form of contraception

Anne Weyman, chief executive, Family Planning Association
The researchers, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also found that the least intelligent teens also appear to delay sexual contact.

Dr Carolyn Halpern, assistant professor of maternal and child heath, said an adolescent with an intelligence score of 100 - average intelligence - was up to five times as likely to have had sexual relations than a peer with an intelligence score of 120-130.

Smarter girls were even less likely than their male counterparts to have sex at an early age.

Researchers analysed information from two detailed confidential surveys

They used a test called the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test to measure intelligence.

The analysis revealed that for each point increase in intelligence score the chance of necking went down 2.5% for boys and 1.6% for girls.

The likelihood of intercourse decreased 2.7% for boys and 1.7% for girls.

It is commonly assumed that students who get good grades are more reluctant to have sexual relations because they are focused on their studies, and do not want to jeopardise their future.

But the researchers found that more intelligent students did not even engage in behaviours such as kissing.

Dr Halpern said: "It is hard to believe that teens avoid kissing because they see it as the start of a slippery slope to sexual intercourse and possible pregnancy."

Surprising finding

Anne Weyman
Anne Weyman said sex education was vital
Dr Halpern said the finding that the least intelligent teenagers also refrained from sexual relations was surprising.

She said: "We thought that teens on the high end would be least likely to have sex, and teens on the low end would be most likely.

"We thought teens of lower intelligence might be more vulnerable to being taken advantage of or less likely to consider possible negative consequences of having sex."

The researchers suggest that less intelligent teenagers may be more likely to be sheltered by their parents or guardians.

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said: "We know that young people with aspirations to achieve in life are less likely to engage in early sexual activity and that ambition is the best form of contraception.

"Children with special needs on the other hand, be they physical, emotional or intellectual, are likely to be more closely supervised and therefore have less opportunity to engage in early sexual experiences."

Ms Weyman said it was important that all young people received responsible education about sex and relationships.

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See also:

15 Feb 00 |  Health
Sex not risky, say teenagers
13 Feb 00 |  Health
Young take risks with sex
18 Jan 00 |  Health
Boys red-faced over condoms
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