Some kids may be at risk for developing STDs later in life

By Jenna Iacurci, Parent Herald February 12, 09:31 am

Young kids who grow up in well-managed households, enjoy school, and have friends who stay out of trouble contract fewer sexually transmitted diseases, according to a new study from the University of Washington.

Almost 2,000 participants were surveyed, and the results suggest that efforts to prevent the spread of STDs should start years before people are even sexually active. The study, which will appear in the Journal of Adolescent Health, says it's the most common infection among U.S. youths.

Getting an STD is usually related to becoming sexually active at an early age, so lead author Marina Epstein looked for common factors among adolescents who were 15-years-old or younger.

The study's findings, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, came from two longitudinal youth development studies. They showed participants age 24 had about eight sexual partners in their lifetime, and about one fifth of them said they had contracted an STD, including herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia or HIV/AIDS.

About a third of young adults who first had sex before age 15 got an STD compared to about 16 percent of those who started having sex when they were older.

How much kids ages 10 to 14 liked school and whether their friends had a knack for getting into trouble both determined how young they were when they first engaged in sexual activity. Based on parents' testimonies, another factor is how closely parents monitored their child's behavior.

Youth prevention programs are the best answer to solving this problem, Epstein said in a statement.

"We spent millions of dollars, with little success, on teaching adolescents that abstinence until marriage is best. Most teenagers do end up having sex, and we would be better off spending that money preparing them to make healthy and responsible choices."

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