Seventeen. That’s how old the average heterosexual American teenager is when he or she loses their virginity. Seventeen is roughly a senior in high school, not old enough to vote but old enough to think about and plan for the future.
For parents, 17 may be a stressful final hurdle to make it past before sending newly blossomed adults off to first jobs or college — so it’s more than understandable that teenage sex carries the stigma it does.
After all, the negative consequences of having sex without proper protection — unplanned pregnancies or STDs — are totally legitimate and warrant an open discussion. But for all the negatives, having sex as a teenager doesn’t have to be that bad, especially for the success of your future.
It’s true: According to a study conducted by the University of Virginia, teens in sexual relationships tend to be less inclined than their abstaining peers to engage in delinquent behaviors (think vandalism and shoplifting). Obviously, a clean record and no run-ins with the law will make the process of getting into college and scoring a great job much easier.
The study goes even one step further to suggest that sexually active teens foster better social relationships, which are essential for both a good quality of life and prosperous career. Despite the surprising findings, the researchers still acknowledge that the key to reaping these psychological rewards is taking steps to avoid pregnancy and diseases.
What causes the correlation between less antisocial behavior and teenage sex? That’s the question the research team plans to attack next, though they suspect these strong relationships formed in adolescence feed a person’s desire to engage in more positive social interactions (rather than negative or harmful ones).
In addition to lowering the risk of delinquency, teenage sex has also been shown to improve moodiness (duh). Researchers from the Children’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard University found a noticeable improvement in happiness and stress and anxiety reduction after the teens being studied at had sex.
The point of this study was to challenge the popular notion that sex is a rotten and dangerous gateway that leads teenagers down a dangerous path. However, it’s important to consider the alternative viewpoint, especially when said teenagers take the necessary precautions that could make way for the potential benefits.
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