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Teenagers increasingly prefer family time to sex, study suggests

Survey finds 16 to 18-year-olds also drinking less and focusing more on education

Tom Embury-Dennis
Wednesday 18 July 2018 09:48 BST
Teenage pregnancies dip to lowest levels since records begun
Teenage pregnancies dip to lowest levels since records begun (Getty )

Teenagers increasingly prefer to spend time online and socialising with their families over having sexual relationships, a new study suggests

The survey found 16 to 18-year-olds were also drinking less and focusing more on their education and future careers.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said these factors may partially explain teenage pregnancy levels dipping to their lowest levels since records begun.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 18,076 conceptions to women aged under 18 in England and Wales in 2016, an 11 per cent decrease from 2015.

This equates to 18.9 conceptions per thousand women aged 15 to 17, compared to a rate of 47.1 per thousand in 1969, the figures released in March show.

The social interactions of teenagers, including a focus on family time and keeping in touch over the internet, may have affected their likelihood of having sexual relationships, the BPAS said.

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Two-thirds of teenagers surveyed said they had never had sex, while 24 per cent said they had never drunk alcohol.

More than two thirds (70 per cent) said they speak to friends online four or more times a week, while less than a quarter (24 per cent) said they saw them that often in person.

Around one in five (22 per cent) said they see friends outside of work or study once a month or less.

The researchers suggest young people who regularly socialise face-to-face with their friends or partners are more likely to be sexually active.

Almost half (46 per cent) of teenagers who see friends four times a week said they have had sex before, compared to 29 per cent of those who see them in person once a month or less.

Of those who see their partner every day face-to-face, 15 per cent said they have not had sex with anyone, compared to 42 per cent of those who see their boyfriend or girlfriend once a month or less often.

Teenagers who socialised in person regularly were also more likely to have had sex with more than one partner.

Around 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds took part in a survey as part of the research by BPAS.

The report said: "The low levels of teenage pregnancy rates may in part be attributed to lower levels of face-to-face interaction between young people and their peers, as opportunities for sexual interaction that could result in a pregnancy are reduced."

Around a third (33 per cent) of teenagers viewed time with their family as of high importance, compared to 27 per cent who said the same for their friends, the survey found.

Meanwhile, the majority of respondents (82 per cent) said getting good grades or succeeding in their chosen career was a priority, compared to around two thirds (68 per cent) who said the same of spending time with their peers.

Katherine O'Brien, head of policy research at BPAS, said: "Our research reveals that this is a generation who are focused on their education, aware of economic challenges, but determined to succeed regardless, and many of whom enjoy time with their families as much with partners and friends.

"They seem to place significant value on responsibility and maturity, particularly when it comes to alcohol consumption and sex.

"We believe that young people themselves are making different choices about the way they live their lives.

"If we can maintain good access to contraceptive services for young people, there is every reason to hope this profound decline in teenage pregnancies is here to stay."

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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