The Rapid Change in Marginally Risky Sexual Behaviors among South African Adolescents

Lloyd D. Grieger, Yale University

High prevalence of HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy in South Africa has prompted policymakers to expend substantial public resources toward reducing risky sexual behaviors among adolescents. Using recently released panel data collected from a large sample of adolescents living in Cape Town, I compare birth cohort estimates of two indicators of risky sexual behavior: timing and contraceptive use at sexual debut. I find that risky adolescent sexual behaviors changed considerably in a relatively short amount of time. For example, younger cohorts are much less likely to sexually debut by age 18, are more likely to use contraception the first time they have sex, and are less likely to become pregnant in their early teenage years. However, I find no reduction in sexual debut at earlier ages, suggesting that efforts to reduce risky sexual behaviors have been most influential for adolescents who are on the margins of riskiness.

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Presented in Session 167: Adolescent and Youth Risk Behaviors and Health in Sub-Saharan Africa