Sexual Health news - Sexual Health and Behavior

Movies may prompt teens to have sex at a young age

Could movies influence sexual behavior in adolescents? A new study published in the journal Psychological Science reports that watching sex scenes in movies can increase the likelihood of participating in similar behavior. Previously, research has shown that the media influences sexual attitudes of adolescents, but this is the first time the focus has been on motion pictures.

Researchers at Dartmouth College analyzed approximately 1,200 individuals between the ages of 12 and 14. Participants were asked to select the movies they'd seen on a list of 50 randomly selected movies. Then, scientists followed up six years later and asked how old the participants were when they first became involved in sexual activity, if they used protection and whether they were monogamous.

Previous studies revealed that 84 percent of movies from 1950 to 2006 contained sexual content. This included 68 percent of films that were rated G, 82 percent of PG movies, and 85 percent of those that were PG-13. The lead researcher of the current study, Ross O'Hara, and his colleagues, similarly went through movies released between 1998 and 2004.

"These movies appear to fundamentally influence [teenagers] personality through changes in sensation-seeking," said O'Hara. "[This] has far-reaching implications for all of their risk-taking behaviors."

Researchers found that the more an adolescent was exposed to sexuality in films, the more likely he or she was to have a tendency to pursue sensory pleasure at that time. This behavior may continue throughout the teenage years and may even carry over into early adulthood.

In addition, more than half of surveyed adolescents reported that the media was their main source of sexual information. However, movies do not always promote safe sex with the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and other contraceptives to avert unplanned pregnancy.

"This study, and its confluence with other work, strongly suggests that parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages," said O'Hara.