New York psychologists should be aware of the most recent research. The National Survey of Family Growth collected data regarding sexual activity through in-person interviews of the civilian noninstitutionalized population with 4,928 males and 7,643 females 15-19 years of age in the United States (Abma, Martinez, Mosher, and Dawson, 2004). This data was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program (VSCP) and is the most recent data currently published by the NCHS. New York psychologists know that, according to this study, the percent of never married females between the ages of 15-17 years in the United States who have ever had sexual intercourse was 37% in 1988, 39% in 1990, and 30% in 2002. The overall percentages seem to be decreasing, but teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV and AIDS, and adolescents initiating sex at a young age are still considerable problems in the United States. As a New York psychologist, I understand that sexual exploration and curiosity are normal aspects of adolescent development; however, the age of initiation of sexual activity has been steadily declining, with initiation of sex between the ages of 11 and 15 years becoming more common (Rodgers, 1999; Smith, 1997). When dealing with adolescents, this information should be used to inform therapy in New York.
Initiating sexual activity at these younger ages has been associated with increased risks for pregnancy and STDs, as well as later economic and educational difficulties for adolescent parents and children of adolescent parents (Rodgers, 1999; Staton et al., 1999; Taylor-Seehafer and Rew, 2000). This is an important area of focus for all adolescent females, including those in therapy in New York.
The United States leads industrialized countries with the most teenage pregnancies with 43 births per 1,000 women between the ages 15-19 years (Abma et al., 2004). In addition to pregnancy, adolescents are at an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. In 2004, Weinstock, Berman, and Cates estimated that there were 9 million new cases of STDs in the year 2000 for persons between the ages of 15-24 years old. It has been further reported that females who initiated sex at a younger age were likely to have more partners than others and to be sexually active more often, increasing both their risk of sexually transmitted diseases and of pregnancy (Abma et al., 2004). Despite these risks, almost a third (30.5%) of 15-19 year old U.S. females surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that it is acceptable for unmarried 16-year-olds to have sexual relations if they have strong affection for their partner (Abma, et al., 2004). This is a concerning attitude that can be addressed by therapy in New York.
To a New York psychologist, the fact that adolescents are engaging in sexual activity at younger ages and that more adolescents may be having sex with multiple partners before they are cognitively prepared to handle these risks and plan for the consequences is especially problematic. Young adolescents are unable to predict consequences of their behavior, envision alternatives, and evaluate options, thus leaving themselves more vulnerable to aversive outcomes (Feeney, Peterson, Gallois, and Terry, 2000; Trad, 1994). This is an issue that can be dealt with through therapy in New York.
Written by Dr. Cortney Weissglass as part of Clinical Research Project submitted to the Faculty of the American School of Professional Psychology of Argosy University, Washington, DC Campus, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology. Dissertation chair: Ann Womack, PhD and Member: Jennifer McEwan, PhD. August, 2010.
For a full list of references, contact Dr. Weissglass.