Youth sexuality 2014 2015: repeat survey - the outlook of the 14 to 25-year-olds and their parents
They are sexually active and are good with contraception. These two factors characterize the 14–17 and 18–25-year-olds today. Cultural differences exist depending on background. All this is revealed by the current results of the new BZgA study ‘Youth Sexuality 2015’, which was presented in Berlin on 12 November 2015.
New: 18–25-year-olds surveyed for the first time?
The representative survey follows on from the BZgA’s predecessor studies on youth sexuality from the years 1980–2010. A new feature of the current study is the expansion of the age range to include ‘young adults’, i.e. those between the ages of 18 and 25. The focal topics of the survey are sexuality education in schools and the home, first sexual experiences, contraceptive knowledge and contraceptive behaviour.
Becoming sexually active – cultural differences
While sexual activities among 14-year-olds are still the exception, acknowledged by an average of just 6%, more than half of the respondents have had sexual intercourse by at age 17. At 19 years of age, 90% of the young women of German origin have already had experience of sexual intercourse. A good two thirds (70%) of young women with foreign roots have become sexually active by the age of 21. The same statements are only true for young men two and three years later respectively.
‘Assumptions that more and more young people are becoming sexually active at an ever younger age are not confirmed,’ emphasizes Dr Heidrun Thaiss, the director of the BZgA. ‘Another positive result is that a steady relationship with the partner with whom they first have intercourse is also important to young people.” Not having the ‘right’ partner is, regardless of gender or background, the main reason for reticence. Girls and young women from migrant families say that moral considerations also play an important role. 28% for example cite ‘I don’t think it’s right before marriage’ as a reason for their sexual restraint. This is true for 4% of German girls and young women.
There is another motive that is relevant to girls and young women with a migrant background, even into adulthood: the fear ‘that the parents could find out’ (20%). Girls and young women from German homes share this argument at the younger end of the spectrum, but it becomes less significant with increasing age.
Contraceptive awareness very present, developments remain positive
The contraceptive behaviour of the 14–17-year-olds is extremely prudent. More than 90% of the sexually active young people talk with their partner about contraception. The long-term comparison we have for German young people reveals just how much contraceptive behaviour has improved: in 1980 29% of the boys and 20% of the girls did not take any contraceptive precautions when they first had intercourse. Today these figures have dropped to 6% and 8% respectively.
For young people with a migrant background we can look at the trend of the past ten years. Among boys with foreign roots the number not using contraception the first time dropped from 34% in 2005 to 10% today; among the girls it dropped from 19% to 2%. ‘It is an extremely gratifying development that young people pay very close attention to protecting themselves, even during their first sexual encounters,’ explains Dr Thaiss. Condoms are the clear winner among adolescents and young adults as a first contraceptive. 73% of the 14–25-year-olds cited this option.
Important for the male adolescents in particular: sexuality education at school
‘The home plays an important role in sexuality education. A parents is an important confidant for their children and a central person for advice regarding contraceptive questions,’ says Dr Thaiss. Depending on background, the parents’ sex-education efforts differ: 63% of the girls and 51% of the boys of German origin responding to the current survey said they spoke with their parents about contraception, but only 41% of the girls and 36% of the boys from homes with a migrant background said the same.
However, schools also have an important role to play: 93% of the young people said they had discussed sexuality-education topics in class. Asked about the most important reference people regarding their sexuality education, boys cite teachers first. Teachers are particularly important reference people for young people with a migrant background because these often lack a parent with whom they could talk.
Information about the study
Between spring and summer 2014 the eighth BZgA youth sexuality survey was conducted with 5,750 interviews nationwide. 3,500 young people between the ages of 14 and 17 as well as their parents and 2,250 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 were asked about their attitudes and behaviours regarding sexual matters and contraception. 1,750 of the respondents had a migrant background. Respondents with ‘a migrant background’ are defined those who do not personally have German citizenship or have at least one parent who was a non-German citizen at birth.