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At what age do youth have their first sexual relations?

The majority of today’s youth have not had sexual relations yet! This is important to emphasize since the opposite impression is regularly communicated.


Before contemplating the idea of having sexual relations, one should first fully understand the importance of sexual activity; this means knowing the differences between desire, attraction, falling in love, and true love. Is it really possible to make a good decision about such an important matter without appreciating these distinctions?


It is quite common to find references in the media about the “average age of sexual initiation”. For example, the media can state that the average age of sexual initiation among the youth in a given country is 16 years old. When teenagers read this, they could believe that the majority of kids are sexually active at the age of sixteen. However, this is interpretation is incorrect.


It is important to realize that the “average age of sexual initiation” is a calculation based solely on those who have already had sexual relations; those who have not yet had sexual relations, therefore, are NOT included in the reported results This is why such reports are misleading; they do not accurately reflect the proportion of persons at a given age that are sexually active.


In order to determine how many persons your age have already had sexual relations, you need to be informed on the proportion of young people in each age group that have already had sex. Below, you can see some examples so that you realize how differently data can be interpreted and understood. Presenting the “average age of initiation” creates a different impression in comparison to presenting the actual percentages.


CountryAverage age of sexual initiationPercentage of 16-year-olds who have already had sexual relations.
Spain1621.7%
El Salvador1526.6%
Peru1421.4%

Upon observing the table above it is clear that: in spite of the average age listed for initiating sexual relations, the percentage of 16-year-olds who have actually had sexual relations is a small minority.


This was published in a scientific journal: Arch Sex Behav. 2011;40:853-5