Survey: 3 of 4 Sexually Active Girls Engage in Risky Sex; Most Moms in the Dark

More than three-quarters of teen girls who have lost their virginity say they’ve engaged in sex without a condom and most moms are in the dark about it, a survey from Seventeen and O, The Oprah Magazine finds.

But three in five of respondents who had “The Talk” with their mothers said it “influenced” their sexual choices positively.

The Sex Talk Survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf the magazines. It included 1,122 girls ages 15 to 22 and 1,098 mothers who have daughters ages 15-22.

Most of the statistics from the survey, which appears in the April 7 issue of Seventeen and April 14 issue of O, were bleak.

— Fifty-six percent of the girls who are no longer virgins said they’ve had sex without any form of birth control and two-thirds of them (66 percent) kept it a secret from their mothers.

— Nearly one-third (30 percent) of the 15-18 year olds in the survey said they had oral sex; about double the number mothers of girls in that age group know about—or even suspected (14 percent).

“Teens need to understand sex, pregnancy and STDs in order to make smart decisions,” Seventeen editor-in-chief Ann Shoket said in a news release. “A lot of girls are hiding important information from their moms, or avoiding the subject completely. But girls who talk to their moms are half as likely to get pregnant. The mother-daughter talk is more important now than ever.”

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and FOX News contributor, said the survey “isn’t tremendously encouraging.”

“While it is encouraging that they say having this talk with their mothers influences their decisions, I would want individual confirmation of this,” he said. “The one thing that jumps out is that teens are not comfortable talking to adults about the sexual behavior they’re engaging in.”

Ablow said the disconnect stems from what modern teenage girls believe is acceptable sexual behavior versus what their mothers believed was acceptable behavior when they were teens.

“This discussion that’s supposed to be a meeting of the minds and a laying bear of the soul may be difficult to have, because there’s been so much change in what young girls feel is acceptable behavior that they feel they can’t talk to their parents about it,” he said.

Of the teens who had talked to their mothers prior to having sex:

— Sixty percent said it influenced them.

— About one-quarter (26 percent) of girls said having “The Talk” with their mothers has made them practice (or plan to practice) safe sex. The same number said it made them wait (or plan to wait) longer to have it.

— Eighteen percent of girls said talking to their mothers made them use (or plan to use) hormonal birth control.

The survey is particularly relevant because a study published in the April issue of the Journal of School Health revealed that some middle schoolers are engaging in sex as young as age 12.

Researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health examined sexual risk behaviors among middle school students in a large southeastern U.S. urban public school district.

By age 12, 12 percent of students had already engaged in vaginal sex, 7.9 percent in oral sex, 6.5 percent in anal sex and 4 percent in all three types of intercourse, researchers found.

The study also found that one-third of sexually active students reported engaging in vaginal or anal sex without a condom within the past three months, and one-fourth had four or more partners.

Ablow said the Seventeen/O Magazine survey demonstrates the importance of having the mother-daughter sex talk, but also points to the need for parents to allow for third party involvement in the discussion.

“I think the family connection is critical and the discussion can only enhance the mother-daughter connection,” he added. “But I also think it would be a wonderful idea that if, as part of the talk, you opt for that additional resource by saying, ‘you can come to me with any question and I will answer that question, but if there is a question you don’t feel comfortable asking me, we can arrange for you to talk to someone else.’”

Ablow said a psychologist, doctor, sex educator or mentor can fill that third party role.

The survey was conducted between January 5 and 15. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated: a full methodology is available.

For more on this survey, visit www.oprah.com/omagazine.