published Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Teens ambivalent about sex before marriage, survey shows

By McClatchy Newspapers

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—A new survey shows that 61 percent of American teens want to be virgins at marriage, yet 34 percent have little problem with sex before marriage.

Even among those who valued virginity, 20 percent had tried "sexual touching" and 15 percent said they'd already had sex, says the national survey by OneHope, a Pompano Beach, Fla.,-based Christian mission organization.

"My reading is, 'Being a virgin until marriage is right for me, but it may not be right for everyone,"' OneHope's Chad Causey said. "It's the categorical rightness that has gone."

That gibes with another finding: 65 percent of teens said truth is relative.

Teens showed ambivalence toward traditional families as well: 82 percent believe God intended marriage to last a lifetime, yet 76 approve divorce when children are involved. Half consider an unmarried man and woman a family.

Causey, vice president of global ministries for OneHope, said the results make more sense when viewed in clusters. For instance, youths who said they want to marry as virgins agreed that marriage should be for life, and they tended to disapprove of divorce.

"Certain elements were tracking as Judeo-Christian conservative worldview," Causey said.

The online survey was done from August through October by Metadigm, a research company affiliated with OneHope. Of the 5,018 respondents, 42 percent were between 13- and 15-years-old, the rest 16 to 18. They were proportionally represented by several factors like geography and ethnicity. Fifty-seven percent were female. Metadigm gives it a 3 percent margin of error.

The survey is part of a larger study of teens in 46 countries, meant to measure not only moral beliefs but attitudes toward families and influences on teens' lives, such as parents and the Internet. The full study is due out by August or September.

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