Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Teens Don’t Understand Correct and Consistent Condom Use

The Journal of Adolescent Health published a study in September 2006 suggesting that teens often skip using condoms. It did not seem to matter whether they were having sex with serious (meaning committed) or casual partners, suggesting that teens are overestimating the safety of using condoms “most of the time” with casual partners, and underestimate the risk of unprotected sex with a serious partner.

Teens in this study only reported using condoms about half of the time, suggesting they do not understand that preventing STDs with safer sex techniques means not sharing body fluids during sexual activity and that they are at serious risk for sexually transmitted infection, including HIV. Teens need to be taught that condoms must be used correctly and consistently (meaning every time) for all types of intercourse – oral, anal, and vaginal.

While we are at it, let’s teach them that:
• Delaying their first sexual experience increases the likelihood that they will use a contraceptive method consistently throughout the relationship and avoid unintended pregnancy);
• Hormonal methods of birth control (if used properly) are associated with lower pregnancy rates than are other contraceptive methods; and
• Hormonal methods should be used with condoms (AKA dual use) to also prevent sexually transmitted infections.

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.