Chicago Youth are More Likely to be Sexually Active than Others

​According to a recent study by the Child Health Data Lab (CHDL) at Children’s Memorial Research Center nearly 12 percent of Chicago Public high school students surveyed had engaged in sexual intercourse before age 13 compared to 7 percent in the in the rest of the country.
The survey results are part of a nationwide survey of public high school students conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The survey, taken in 2007, shows the current levels of risk behavior for youth in the US, and is broken down by national, state and city levels to provide the most comprehensive and comparable results. In Illinois and Chicago, the survey was given at randomly selected public high schools and covered topics including nutrition, tobacco use, alcohol and sexual behavior.
“Generally speaking, the results show that Illinois youth who live outside of Chicago appear to report the same level of sexual activity as is reported by youth across the country,” says Jenifer Cartland, PhD, Director of the (CHDL). “The difference is when you look at Chicago youth, they are 60 percent more likely to engage in sexual intercourse compared to the rest of the country.” Cartland also said the percentage of youth who have had sexual intercourse increases dramatically with age. For example, between 65 percent and 71 percent of high school seniors report being sexually active, regardless of where they live.
Other findings show that a higher percentage of Chicago youth are using condoms and are less likely to use alcohol the last time they engaged in sexual intercourse, compared to other youth in the U.S. “Even though this survey shows that Chicago youth are more likely to be sexually active, it also shows that they are taking protective measures,” says Cartland.
Child health advocates are concerned that teen parents generally have lower education attainment; it is especially hard for teen parents to provide a nurturing home for their children. “The early onset of sexual activity puts a youth at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy,” says Cartland. “Those factors can drastically affect the course of a teen’s life.”
About the Child Health Data Lab
The Child Health Data Lab (CHDL) is a repository of current and archival information on child and adolescent health in Chicago and Illinois. The CHDL supports efforts of investigators and program planners at Children's Memorial Hospital who focus on injury prevention and community-based efforts to improve the health of youth. CHDL is funded in collaboration with Kohl’s Cares for Kids, Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois State Board of Education.
About Jenifer Cartland
Jenifer Cartland, PhD, a research assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, is the director of Child Health Data Lab (CHDL) and oversees its daily operations. Dr. Cartland is a public policy analyst with fifteen years of experience working on child and adolescent health and welfare issues. Her areas of expertise include health care financing, community-based interventions and child and adolescent injury. She also provides consultation to the Children's Memorial Research Center (CMRC) and Children's Memorial Hospital investigators involved in child health research.

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital, is a 23-story, state-of-the-art hospital located in downtown Chicago on the campus of its academic partner, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in the U.S.News & World Report 2013-14 Honor Roll rankings. Lurie Children’s provides pediatric care in a setting that offers the latest benefits and innovations in medical technology, research and family-friendly design. The hospital relies on philanthropic support to care for more than 149,000 children each year.

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