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A quarter of black boys in urban areas have sex before age 13, study finds

About a quarter of black boys in urban areas have had sex before age 13, a shocking new study finds.

Researchers said that between eight and 12 percent of all boys have had sex before reaching age 13, but it was much higher in inner cities. 

While the boys had varying attitudes about intercourse, nearly 40 percent said they had ‘mixed feelings’ about their first sexual experience and roughly 10 percent said it was unwanted.

Some of the boys reported that they were coerced or pressured by their peers into having sex before they were ready.

The team, led by Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, says the findings show the need for early access to sex education, sexual health clinics and mental health facilities for inner city boys and teens.

A new study from Johns Hopkins Medicine has found that nearly 50 percent of African-American boys who had sex before age 13 didn’t want or had ‘mixed feelings’ about if (file image)

In the US, the average age at which both men and women report having sex for the first time is about 17.

Past studies have found that having intercourse before age 13 is linked to higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as other behavioral issues like substance use and skipping school.  

For the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, the team collected data from the Youth  Risk Behavior Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The first survey looks at six categories of health-related behaviors that lead to death and disability in adolescents and young adults, and the second studies family life, pregnancy, contraception and infertility among US men and women. 

Researchers focused on the age at which men first reported having sex and their attitudes about the experience. 

Among black men, nearly 25 percent – and mostly in urban areas such as San Francisco and Memphis – said they had sex for the first time before age 13. 

About 55 percent said that they wanted it to happen at the time. Meanwhile, 37 percent said they had mixed feelings about their first sexual experience and eight percent said they didn’t want it to happen at all.

‘Young men having sex before age 13 usually haven’t received the appropriate sex education and services, and we need a better system to respond to their needs,’ said senior author Dr Arik Marcell, an associate professor of pediatrics Johns Hopkins.

‘The cultural double standard about sexual behavior in the US, in which it is okay for young boys, but not girls, to be sexually active, has prevented us from effectively addressing male adolescents’ vulnerabilities and their healthy sexual development.’ 

Currently, just 24 US states and the District of Columbia require that schools teach some form of sexual education.

While these classes are usually taught between grades six and 12, the level of education can vary depending on the school and the region.

According to a 2014 study from Guttmacher Institute, fewer than half of all US high schools had a sexual education program that covered all 16 ‘critical sexual education topics’ recognized by the CDC.

This includes the efficacy of condoms, how HIV and other STDs are transmitted and the importance of limiting the number of sexual partners. 

‘I have heard boys and adolescents talking about their first sex encounters in a way that suggests they didn’t anticipate, understand or know what was happening or what’s appropriate and what’s not,’ said Dr Marcell.

‘I was concerned that such early sex experiences happening to boys could be unwanted and influence their future health.’ 

For future studies, the team wants to look at how the age at which men have sex for the first time affects future sexual experiences. 

In an accompanying editorial, Dr David Bell and Dr Samantha Garbers from the department of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City called for more mental health counseling for boys and teens when it comes to sex.

‘It is critical to engage young men in self-reflection about the real pressures US society places on them that affect their overall health and well-being,’ they write.

‘Any discussions associated with pressures should include topics of “what it means to be a man” and soliciting and giving consent. With the support of caring adults… boys can achieve healthier milestones without ambivalence or societal risk.’