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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
UNITED STATES: Patterns and Correlates of Same-Sex Sexual Activity Among US Teenagers and Young Adults
Janice McCabe; Karin L. Brewster; Kathryn Harker Tillman
October 31, 2011
Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health Vol. 43; No. 3:

The authors introduced the current study by noting that an accurate understanding of youths' sexual behavior is necessary for the development of effective interventions. Little is known, however, about the prevalence and correlates of same- sex sexual activity among teens and young adults. This is particularly true for those who do not self-identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

The team used descriptive and regression analyses of data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth to examine patterns and correlates of same-sex sexual activity among a sample of 2,688 never-married, non-cohabitating males and females ages 15-21. "Same-sex behavior was assessed separately by gender, as well as by heterosexual experience and sexual attraction and identity," the authors wrote.

Same-sex sexual experience was reported by 11 percent of women and 4 percent of men. Those youths who were attracted only to the opposite sex had a decreased likelihood of reporting same- sex activity (rate ratio, 0.1 for each gender). Women and men who identified as homosexual or bisexual had an elevated likelihood of same-sex sexual activity (5.1 and 5.9, respectively). Among women attracted to men exclusively, those who had had heterosexual sex were more than four times as likely as those who had not to have engaged in same-sex activity as well.

"Finally, among youth who reported any same-sex attraction, women and men who said they were homosexual or bisexual had an elevated likelihood of having engaged in same-sex behavior (4.7 and 5.6, respectively)," the authors wrote. "A significant proportion of 'straight' youth engage in same-sex activity, and so information on risks associated with such behavior should be included in sex education programs and targeted to all youth."

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