- Groundbreaking research into the sexual habits of teenagers
suggests the media is guilty of sending out conflicting messages, leading
to a rise in teenagers' sexual activity.
- The study, one of two carried out on behalf of the Health
Education Board Scotland, shows that while television soaps tend to cover
sexual issues in an in-depth and informative manner, men's magazines approach
the subject in a macho and stereotypical way.
- The survey entitled Representation of Teenage Sexuality
in the Media was conducted by Glasgow University Media School who found
the portrayal of young people in the media was overwhelmingly heterosexual
and sexually active.
- Men's magazines convey a macho image
- Martin Raymond of HEBS said the key to the increase in
sexual activity among young people was the media.
- "The number of children depending on the media as
a source of sexual information has grown and grown," said Mr Raymond.
- While soap operas, newspaper advice pages and female
magazines were praised for providing helpful and sensible information,
researchers found male magazines were less helpful.
- Susan Batchelor, one of those involved, said: "The
message in young men's magazines is that all young men are heterosexually
active, that sex is macho and that is what all young men are doing, the
implication being that if you're not having sex there's something wrong
- A second study, Health Behaviours of Scottish Schoolchildren,
highlights the marked increase in underage sex.
- Almost 38% of 15-year-old girls surveyed by researchers
at Edinburgh University had had sexual intercourse.
- The figure compares with 26.5% who said they had had
sex in a similar questionnaire in 1990.
- Dr Candace Currie, from the University's Research Unit
into Health and Behavioural Change, said there could be a number of reasons
for the children becoming involved in a range of adult activities earlier,
including children having greater disposable incomes.
- She pointed to research that indicates the number of
children smoking has also doubled in the past decade. But she added that
the trends were international.
- Childhood seems to be getting shorter
- Dr Candace Currie, University of Edinburgh Research Unit
into Health and Behavioural Change
- She said: "One of the conclusions you see from other
countries is that children embark on an adult lifestyle at a much younger
- "There are a number of factors that are associated
with a rise in sexual activity. Children have a larger disposable income
and their lifestyles have changed.
- "They tend to be drinking and doing more adult things.
Smoking has also doubled in the last decade among 12 to 15-year-olds.
- "Early sexual activity is part of the package. It's
not an individual lifestyle - there tends to be a peer culture.
- "The fact they are embarking on adult lifestyles
earlier is because childhood seems to be getting shorter, which is more
to do with the increase in the consumer lifestyle of today's teenagers."
- The research also indicated that girls with low educational
aspirations, and who were not involved in sports were those most likely
to be having sex earlier.
- In the report, Dr Currie added that there was no link
between sex education in schools and the increase in sexual activity.
- She said: "If you look at countries like the Netherlands
where there is sex education at a younger age, there is a rise in the age
of first sexual encounter."