Reflections on two decades of research on teen sexual behavior and pregnancy

J Sch Health. 1999 Mar;69(3):89-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.1999.tb07214.x.


During the past 20 years, both researchers and program developers made great progress in their efforts to reduce adolescent unprotected sex and prevent teen pregnancy. Research studies are now more likely to employ experimental designs with random assignments, to have large sample sizes with adequate statistical power, to measure actual sexual and contraceptive behaviors, to measure longer term effects, to employ proper statistical methods, and to report results in an unbiased manner. As a result of this body of research, large advances have occurred in our understanding of: 1) the incidence of teen pregnancy, and its consequences; 2) the effects of improving adolescent knowledge, increasing access to contraception, and improving parent/child communication; and 3) the characteristics of effective programs. The on-going evaluation of sex and HIV education programs coupled with creativity and perseverance on the part of program developers led to two groups of effective programs--sex and HIV education programs that reduce sexual risk-taking behavior, and youth development programs that reduce teen-age pregnancy and childbearing.

PIP: For the past 20 years, a tremendous achievement has been made by both researchers and program developers in their efforts to promote sexual health behaviors and prevention of teenage pregnancy. Advances in the field of research took place in the following areas: measurement of sexual behavior, sample sizes and calculations of statistical power, use of experimental designs with random assignment, measurement of long-term effects, use of proper statistical techniques and proper reporting of results. In addition to improvements in the research methods, large advances have also been made in understanding the issue of teen pregnancy, which composed the five pillars to teen pregnancy prevention movement. The 20 years of exerting effort and perseverance on the part of researchers and program developers yielded two new effective researched-based programs; namely, 1) sex and HIV education programs that reduce sexual risk-taking behavior and 2) youth development programs that reduce teen pregnancy and childbearing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Health Planning
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data
  • Program Evaluation / methods*
  • Research Design
  • Sex Education / methods*
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • United States