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Keywords:

  • adolescent;
  • sexual behavior;
  • risk factors;
  • middle school

BACKGROUND: The potential negative consequences of engaging in sexual risk behaviors at a young age are well documented. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of information about the prevalence of sexual behaviors among middle school students. This article provides an overview of the sexual risk behaviors of middle school students from 16 districts and states throughout the country, and examines these risks by demographic variables.

METHODS: In 2009, 10 states and 6 districts administered the Youth Risk Behavior Survey-Middle School and included sexual behavior questions. Data were examined using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Online database. Frequencies were run for 4 sexual behaviors and an HIV/AIDS education question for each location. A series of t-tests were calculated for these 5 items by gender, age, and race for each location.

RESULTS: Data show that 5–20% of sixth graders and 14–42% of eighth graders have engaged in sexual intercourse. A concerning percentage of students have also engaged in other sexual risk behaviors and many are not receiving HIV/AIDS education. Additionally, there were significant differences by gender, race, and age.

CONCLUSION: Consistent with previous studies, males, minorities, and older students are more likely to engage in sexual risk behaviors. There is also variation in the percentage of students engaging in sexual behaviors across locations. Sexual risk reduction education is important for middle school youth, particularly for minorities, males and those from southern and/or larger, urban cities as those are the populations with generally higher sexual risk behaviors.