In most countries more adolescents are currently sexually active than adults realize. This increase in adolescent sexuality arises largely from several positive development. Improved nutrition and health care means that puberty now begins earlier. Everywhere in the developing world more girls and boys are going to school -- and staying at school longer. Age at marrying is rising in most developing countries. All these developments mean that there is a longer period between sexual maturity and marriage and, not surprisingly, increased sexual activity before marriage.
Adolescents in the USA are having sex earlier : 18 percent of boys and 6 percent of girls are having intercourse before the age of 14. 65% of 18-year-old women have had sexual intercourse. The average age for US women is 16. In Italy is is 17; 15 in Niger; and 19 in Indonesia. In Latin America the average age at first intercourse was lower for teenage men than for women, in some countries by as much as two years.
A study of 210 adolescent girls in the eastern region of Uganda found that 70% had had sex before the age of 14 -- in many cases with men up to 20 years older. They thought that older men would provide them with economic security; they also had an AIDS incidence five times that of boys in their age group. A USA survey in the early 1990s found that 18 percent of boys and 6 percent of girls were having intercourse before the age of 14.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute reported in 1998 for the USA: (1) The younger a girl is at the time of first intercourse, the more likely she is to report her first experience as non-voluntary; (2) Each year almost one million teenagers -- 11% of all those 15-19 and 21% of those who have had sexual intercourse -- become pregnant; (3) Amount sexually active teenagers, about 8% of 14-year-olds, 18% of 15 to 17-year olds and 22% of 18 and 19 year-olds become pregnant each year; (4) A majority of teenagers who give birth (83%) are much more likely to come from poor families; (5) Nationally, 8 in 10 teen pregnancies are unplanned, accounting for about one-fourth of all accidental pregnancies; (6) A sexually active teenager who does not use contraception has a 90% chance of pregnancy within one year; (7) Three-fourths of teenagers use some method of contraception -- usually a condom -- the first time they have sex; (8) While the likelihood of having intercourse increases steadily with age, about 1 in 5 teenagers do not have intercourse.
The minimal age for sexual intercourse is very culture-specific. For example, Gypsies mature considerably earlier than other European ethnic groups. Also their marriages traditionally occurred after age nine but usually before age fourteen, much earlier than the West could ever accept. Today there are too many young Gypsies in prisons for sexual abuse, although they often have not committed any crime against the law of their ethnic groups.