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Daniel Wight, Medical Research Council
"About one-fifth of girls said they had been under some kind of pressure"
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Friday, 5 May, 2000, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Teenagers 'regret' early sex

Schoolchildren were questioned about sex
A significant number of young people who were 14 or under when they lost their virginity now regret it, according to a survey.

Third year pupils from schools in eastern Scotland were asked about their first sexual experiences.

Almost 20% of boys and 15% of girls said they had had heterosexual sex, with 60% of them using contraception.

Many regretted having sex so young

However, almost a third of girls, and more than a quarter of boys said they now felt it had happened too early in life.

Many say the pressure to have sex was a key factor in those regrets.

A high proportion of boys questioned said they were sorry that they had exerted pressure on their partners, while the girls said that they regretted having had sex because they had felt under duress, had not planned the experience and had had no parental monitoring.

The research, which involved questioning 7,000 schoolchildren, was published in the British Medical Journal.

No contraception

As many as one in five who confessed to having had sex before the age of 14 said they had not used any form of contraception, while a further 9% said they had only used the withdrawal method, which offers little protection against sexually transmitted disease.

A significant proportion said they had been either drunk or had taken drugs before consenting to sex for the first time.

Daniel Wight, of the Medical Research Council's Public Health Unit, who led the research, said about 20% of girls who had had under-age sex had spoken of having been under some kind of pressure.

"It is unclear exactly what kind of pressure they were under, whether it was of a verbal nature or because of the boy's greater physical power."

He added: "If they engage in sexual behaviour which within a year they are regretting, that suggests they entered into it too early."

Sex education

Brook Advisory Centres, a charity dealing with sexual issues, said the research proved that people having sex earlier tended to regret it more.

A spokesman said: "Young people are feeling pressured into sex before they are ready and often do not know how to deal with these pressures.

"It is the responsibility of parents, schools, and young people's advice services to ensure that young people are taught, early on in their lives, the skills to enable them to negotiate and communicate in relationships.

"Parents are key to providing these skills and should be encouraged to talk openly and honestly with young people about sex."

The charity also called for sex education to be made statutory in all primary and secondary schools.

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See also:

04 May 00 | Education
No sex please, we're teachers
29 Dec 99 | Health
Teenage pregnancies
13 Feb 00 | Health
Young take risks with sex
18 Feb 00 | Health
Gonorrhoea rates rise by 35%
08 Mar 00 | Health
Pregnancy campaign targets boys
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