Negative Psychological Effects of Sex on Teens

teenage couple kissing
Close-up of a teenage couples' feet as they face each other kissing in a park. (Image: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images)

No parent wants to think about their teenager having sex. As your child enters her teen years, however, she is gaining independence and growing more interested in making her own decisions. You may not be able to dictate her relationship choices, but you can talk to her about the possible negative psychological effects of sex for teenagers. As her parent, you also may find some reassurance in the knowledge that these effects appear to be rare.

Possible Negative Effects

A University of California, San Francisco study conducted from 2002 to 2004 details the negative feelings some teenagers may have after their first sexual experience. In the study of 273 students, teens describe feeling used, fearing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, and having a diminished view of themselves following a first sexual encounter.

Prevalence

A 2007 study conducted as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that the majority of teenagers were able to walk away from their first sexual encounters mentally unscathed. The possible risks of pregnancy and STD transmission were still present, but of 8,563 teens studied over an 18-month period, researcher Ann Meier found that only 15 percent suffered negative psychological consequences.

Age and Gender

Of the teenagers that reported negative feelings, the age of their first sexual experience seemed to make a difference. Girls who had sex prior to age 15 and boys who had sex prior to age 14 seemed to be more vulnerable to negative psychological effects, according to Meier. The University of California study reported that girls were more than twice as likely to experience a negative self-view after their first sexual experience, and more than three times as likely to walk away feeling used. Meier also found that the course the relationship took after introducing sex also played a role in a girl's overall feelings about the encounter.

One Size Does Not Fit All

While researchers have found that most teenagers report no negative psychological effects after their first sexual experience, parents should still be mindful of those who do wind up struggling with their decision. Should your teenager express remorse and negative feelings surrounding his first sexual encounter, talk through those feelings with him, and seek the help of a professional if you feel he may need additional assistance.

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