How have young people’s sexual behavior and attitudes changed over the years?

A cross-temporal meta-analysis of 530 studies (N = 269,649) showed that young people’s sexual attitudes and behavior changed substantially between 1943 and 1999, with the largest shifts occurring among girls and young women. Both young men and women became more sexually active over time, as measured by age at first intercourse (decreasing from 19 to 15 years among young women) and percentage sexually active (increasing from 13% to 47% among young women). Attitudes toward premarital intercourse became more lenient, with approval increasing from 12% to 73% among young women and from 40% to 79% among young men. Feelings of sexual guilt decreased. The correlation between attitudes and behaviors was stronger among young women. These data support theories positing that culture has a larger effect on women’s sexuality.

Source: “Changes in Young People’s Sexual Behavior and Attitudes, 1943-1999: A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis.” from Review of General Psychology – Vol 13, Iss 4

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