Despite the lingering double standard, data indicate that early sexual experiences, both coital and noncoital, are now more likely to be shared within the context of an ongoing relationship than they were in Kinsey’s time. Studies conducted in the United States have shown that from early to late adolescence the percentage of teens involved in romantic relationships approximately doubles from about 30% in early adolescence to

Sexuality During Childhood and Adolescence

approximately 70% in late adolescence (Overbeck et al., 2003). Furthermore, contem­porary adolescents are most likely to be sexually intimate with someone they love or to whom they feel emotionally attached (Cheng & Landale, 2011; Overbeck et al., 2003).

A recent study of several hundred college freshmen found that 80% of female and 66% of male respondents indicated that a primary motivation for engaging in sexual relations was having a boyfriend/girlfriend they loved (Patrick et al., 2007). Another recent national study of more than 8,000 adolescents found that most youth established an ongoing romantic relationship by late adolescence and that romantic events, such as holding hands, kissing, and publicly acknowledging themselves and their partner as being a couple, generally occur before sexual interaction takes place. This investigation also reported that this tendency to establish a secure base through romantic interactions prior to sexual sharing was consistent across several ethnic groups, including Asian, White, Hispanic, and Black adolescents (O’Sullivan et al., 2007).

Recent changes in the attitudes and behaviors of both sexes appear to show a merg­ing of attitudes regarding sexual activity. Teenage women seem to be more comfort­able with having sex with someone for whom they feel affection rather than believing they must "save themselves" for a love relationship. At the same time, adolescent males are increasingly inclined to have sex within an affectionate or loving relationship rather than engaging in sex with a casual acquaintance or stranger, which was once typical for adolescent males (Laumann et al., 1994; O’Sullivan et al., 2007). Nevertheless, casual sexual relationships via "hook-ups" (see Chapter 7) are also relatively common among adolescents (George et al., 2006; Puentes et al., 2008).

An emerging social phenomenon, adolescent sexting, is receiving considerable atten­tion from legal scholars and legislature officials. We discuss this rapidly evolving social trend in the next section.