Today’s teenagers are having less sex than their parents did at the same age thanks to a combination of easy pornography, computer games and house prices, new figures reveal.
For all those adults worried about what their teenage children are getting up to, the answer is probably ‘not as much as you think’ according to a study of nearly 27,000 people.
Despite the growth of online dating, apps such as Tinder and the image of carefree, casual sex being rife, more young adults today are abstaining or simply finding other ways to amuse themselves.
The research focused on the lifestyles of two generations – those born in the 1990s who are now aged 20-24 and the so-called Generation X, their parents’ generation born in the 60s and 70s.
And while it may seem the young have all the fun, they appear to be having fun in a different way these days than those who entered adulthood in the more heady days the late 1970s and beyond.
US psychologists, led by those from San Diego State University, looked at the long term data across the country monitoring the lifestyles of nearly 27,000 people over the course of several decades.
And it noted that there are more teenagers today who either are not having sex at all or less sex than those of a similar age from Generation X.
For instance, 15 per cent of those born in the 1990s have had NO sexual partners since they turned 18 compared to just six per cent of the previous generation at the same point in their lives.
Other figures show that in 1991 the number of high school students who had already lost their virginity was 51 per cent.
But in 2015 that figure had dropped to 41 per cent.
Experts believe several factors may be behind the fall.
It is possible that today’s young adults are being more responsible and are more aware of diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
There has also been data to suggest that alcohol use among students has fallen which could be a contributory factor.
But while changing attitudes may be a factor, so too are changing times, said lead researcher, Professor Jean Twenge, also the author of a book called Generation Me.
Easy access to pornography, more time spent interacting on a computer screen and living at home for longer because buying a first home has become more expensive are all potential causes
She said: “Online dating apps should, in theory, help Millennials find sexual partners more easily.
“However, technology may have the opposite effect if young people are spending so much time online that they interact less in person, and thus don’t have sex.
“This generation is very interested in safety, which also appears in their reduced use of alcohol and their interest in ‘safe spaces’ on campus.
“This is a very risk-averse generation, and that attitude may be influencing their sexual choices.”
She added: “This generation appears to be waiting longer to have sex, with an increasing minority apparently waiting until their early twenties or later.”
While that may seem good news for those worried about loose morals and sexual health, for instance, but there should be some caution too, said Professor Twenge.
She told the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour: “If young adults forgo sex completely, they may be missing out on some of the advantages of an adult romantic relationship.”