A recent study reports, on the basis of survey, that fewer teens are having sex and fewer teens are giving birth than the mid-1990s. The articles reporting the study attribute the change to education and condoms; but what kind of education? No doubt liberal advocates of sex education in schools want to believe it is classroom instruction and access to birth control technology. But other forces are at work.
Since the 1990s there has been a national shift in general opinion away from liberal attitudes toward sex and illegitimate birth toward conservative values of self-restraint, conventional family formation, and personal responsibility. The change in the national welfare act in the mid-1990s was symbolic of, as well as instrumental in, that shift.
We may hope that further restraint of teen sex will occur. Other studies have shown that early sexual experience is almost always injurious to girls--also to boys for different reasons. Emotional growth, growth in personal self-confidence, and achievement of the social capability to support children occur years after teens have developed the biological capability and hormonal drive for sexual activity. From Victorian times, middle class American ethics wisely called for postponement of sexual initiation and parenthood. The middle class understood that postponement was crucial for healthy sexual activity in young adulthood, as well as for strong families and healthy children. This understanding was lost in the hormonal fury of the 1960s when personal liberation led to sexual promiscuity and political irresponsibility. The survey on teen sex is another indication that we are passing beyond the social chaos unleashed by that decade of mixed blessings.