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While the number of men having sex under age 30 has infamously dropped, that number may be on the rise in boys under age 13.
A recent study found that a much larger-than-expected percentage of boys report having sex at a young age, reported CNN. Published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, the study found that between 3.6 and 7.6 percent of males, around one in 13, in the United States reported having their first sexual encounter before age 13.
The data was collected in questionnaires completed by 20,000 students in grades nine to 12, from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System from 2011, 2013 and 2015, as well as from the National Survey of Family Growth.
The study also analyzed how much individuals wanted their first sexual experience. The National Survey of Family Growth found that 8.5 percent of males who reported having sex under thirteen called the experience “unwanted,” and 37 percent reported they had “mixed feelings” about the encounter.
The researchers have called for more education and support for healthy sexual development in young people, especially boys.
“Too often, the sexual health needs of young men are overlooked,” Laura Lindberg, a principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute and the first author of the study, told CNN. “These findings have major implications for the timing of sex education and sexual and reproductive health care.”
The study did have some limitations, as CNN noted. The data focused solely on male-female sexual experiences, and also revealed a pattern in which younger respondents were more likely to report sexual activity below age 13.
Regardless of the potential over-reporting of precocious sexual intercourse that may have occurred, the researchers have cited the study in their call for improvements in sex education and a revision of the dominant cultural rhetoric surrounding male sexuality.
“It is critical to engage young men in self-reflection about the real pressures U.S. society places on them that affect their overall health and well-being,” wrote the study’s authors.
“With the support of caring adults, led by existing national guidelines that call for developmentally appropriate interventions early in life,” they continued, “boys can achieve healthier milestones without ambivalence or societal risk.”
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