Researchers Find ‘Discrepancies’ in Youths’ Self-reported Sexual Behavior

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Association between Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Young Adults’ Self-reported Abstinence

Pediatrics

Self-reported sexual behavior – the lodestar of much research on teens’ sexual activity and health – apparently has built in error factors, according to a report released today by the journal Pediatrics.

As part of the massive National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, more than 14,000 young people completed computer-assisted audio interviews about their sexual activity and then submitted a urine sample to researchers. The samples, examined within 96 hours, were tested for three common nonviral sexually transmitted diseases.

More than 10 percent of the samples that tested positive were from youths who had reported being abstinent for the past 12 months.  On the other hand, not as many of the youths who reported being sexually active tested positive for STDs as – statistically – might have been expected.

Though there is a possibility that some of the youths might have had the diseases more than a year, researchers said it was slight.  They also said that some youths might simply have misremembered.

Either way, researchers say there are “discrepancies” between young adults’ positive STD status and self-reported sexual behavior. The researchers didn’t identify exact correlates or discrepant behavior : Are some reporting having sex when they didn’t and others reporting they had not been sexually active when they hadn’t?

Because of the discrepancies,  researchers recommend screening all adolescents for sexually transmitted diseases, and not basing the decision to screen on reported sexual activity.