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STDs Are Prevalent in Teen Girls

Add sexually transmitted diseases to the list of topics you should talk with your kids about early and clearly more often.

One in 4 teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. That's the latest information from research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of 838 girls in the study, 26 percent, or 3.2 million girls nationwide, had an STD. The disease rates affected black girls the most; nearly half had at least one STD compared with 20 percent of white teens. Of the girls who tested positive for 1 STD, 15 percent had more than one.

The most common STDs listed in the study were cancer- and genital wart-associated HPV (18.3%), followed by chlamydia (3.9%), trichomoniasis (2.5%), and Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (1.9%). Syphilis, HIV and gonorrhea were not included in the analysis.

A year ago, when we discussed the HPV vaccine, many of you supported it. Wrote Bea: "I find this debate silly. Because of our sex hang ups, little girls are going to get cancer. Nice."

Some, though, said we don't know enough about the vaccine to warrant giving it to our girls. "I oppose mandatory vaccination with this vaccine because it is too soon. The vaccine just came out after being tested on 11,000 girls/women. I work in medical research and I know from experience that many drug side effects are not seen until the drug is on the market and tens of thousands of people take it," wrote Karen.

Does this research make you a stronger HPV vaccine proponent or change your mind from a year ago? Do you/will you be proactive in bringing your daughters to gynecologists early and make sure they get STD testing? How would you react if your child was the one case in 4?

Related: STD Data Came as No Surprise, Area Teenagers Say

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 13, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Teens
Previous: Family First | Next: The Tests Are Coming!


Yet another tragic consequence of abstinence only education.

Posted by: mona | March 13, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

This is the result of grown men preying on young girls IMO.

Posted by: ondedline | March 13, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I'm with Amelia on this one. I'd rather take the matches away from my kids before they're old enough to play with fire -- than give them lessons on how to safely and enjoyably start a fire while they're still in elementary school.

I'd rather take the car keys away until they're old enough to drive capably -- rather than giving them instructions on how to safely and enjoyably drive before they're ready. Strange, no one ever says "well, they're all going to drive anyway, so we might as well teach them how -- even if they're in sixth grade." No one has a problem with saying "actually, my kid isn't old enough to drive. And driving is a really risk activity. You could kill someone out there."

Posted by: justlurking | March 13, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I had sex ed in the 80s too. And they taught us about STDs, and birth control. Especially condoms. Yes - when we were 10 the class was about the reproductive system, but by the time you were in 6th or 7th grade our class included information on birth control. AND they highlighted the fact that the pill, sponge, etc. may help prevent pregnancy, but did nothing to protect you from STDs.

And who says there wasn't an STD epidemic back then? I'd bet the numbers haven't changed much over the years. The key is to be an involved parent, and to be sure that your teens have access to condoms. Assuming that because you're close to your teen isn't enough. Make sure that they have protection available, even if they're too embarassed to buy it themselves.

(My personal belief is that if you aren't mature enough to buy your own condoms, you're not mature enough to use them. But it's not a risk I would take with my kids.)

Posted by: JB from NJ | March 13, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Good luck with that justlurking. Your argument forgets the fact that while YOU may have control over the car, you do not have control over your childrens' bodies, thoughts, desires, hormones.

Posted by: ondedline | March 13, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

This does not surprise me. The number of parents that I deal with who seem to think that their kids have no idea about sex astounds me. You don't need to discuss STDs with your 3rd graders, but if you begin a dialogue about their bodies and how to respect them, that conversation can grow as they age.

Posted by: Momof5 | March 13, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Ummm... "Syphilis, HIV and gonorrhea were not included in the analysis."

Excuse me, but how can you have a meaningful "analysis" of STDs while excluding the most prevalent? This "Analysis" is crap.

Posted by: nofluer | March 13, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Mona,where is that cause/effect relationshiip of abstinence-only education CAUSING more STDs in teenagers? Isn't the cause of more STDs in teenage girls actually sexual promiscuity?

We learned sex ed in school in the 80's and it did NOT include any information whatsoever on birth control, much less abstinence. I went to Fx. County Public Schools and the sex ed what all about the facts of reproduction. Yet, shockingly, there was no epidemic in sexually transmited diseases.

Isn't the real problem that we have failed this generation of teenagers by giving them the idea that having multiple sex partners will have no adverse impact on their future health or well-being?

Or what about my friends now struggling with fertility who thought that abortion was no big deal in the 80's?

Every time we act as if sexual activity is as or should be as common as bike riding, and that having an abortion is no more serious than getting your ears pierced, you teach teenagers to undervalue themselves, their bodies and their futures.

Posted by: Amelia | March 13, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Research continues to support the fact that abortion does not cuase infertility. Infertility if often causes by undetected or untreated STDs that scar fallopian tubes. It's quite likely that your friends who are facing infertility are suffering the long-term effects of the STIs, the same STIs that we're trying to prevent this generation from getting.

Posted by: For Amelia | March 13, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

It seems that neither condom education nor abstinence only education works in preventing STDs. Why, because neither gets at the heart of the matter. That increased sexual activity and partners, increases the likelihood of contracting an STD. Personally, I think HS is too young for sex. I wasn't sexually active and I find it hard to believe that MOST HS (and god forbid younger) are responsible enough to protect themselves or their partners. It is pretty evident in the number of unwanted pregnancies and STDs in this group. Putting that all aside, we as adults and parents have very little control (if any) on the choices that the young people will make. You can talk to you are blue in the face but the reality is that they need to and will make their own decisions regarding their bodies and their partners. I guess the biggest problem I have with the abstinence only crowd is that they are not realistic to know that they do not control the kids. While I think it is safest to have sex limited to two monogomous partners for a lifetime, it is highly unlikely in this day and age. Or in any age for that matter. So why are they against aiding young people who make the choice to have sex. This is America. A free country. And even our young people have the right to make bad decisions. Why not vaccinate them (if the vaccine proves to be safe) and aid them with the knowledge to make responsible choices. I am a big wait till you get to be an adult, limit your partners (preferably only one in a lifetime), and respect yourself and your partner. But I would still educate both my son and daughter about BC, abortion, STDs, AIDs in particular, and the emotional aspect of sexual relations. I was once in a store when a 15-17 year old was buying a condom. He looked completely embarrassed. I said in a very firm voice, "don't you ever feel embarrassed to buy a condom. You are protecting yourself and your partner. There is nothing more mature, responsible, and loving to protect the person you have chosen to have relations with. While I may not have made the same choice to be sexually active at your age, I fully support your choice to make the right decision to protect yourself and your loved one. " He still looked embarrassed but followed me out the store and whispered, "thanks, I needed to hear that." Again, it is NOT your choice to make. And making two bad choice in a row, doesn't help the situation (having sex at a young age and not using BC). Also as far as the vaccination is concerned. I would like to see more data on it. Luckily my daughter is 4 now, and I hope more data on the safety of the vaccine will be available before she needs it. But I have NO moral issues about vaccinating her. And as far as abortion causing infertility. I don't think there is enough medical evidence to suggest that safe and legal abortions increases your likelihood of infertility. There is certainly no evidence to show direct causation. But there is a lot of evidence that STDs does affect future fertility. Another big reason to educate our children.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 13, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

"Yet, shockingly, there was no epidemic in sexually transmited diseases."

I'd like to see a logitudanal analysis of STD rates. I know that teens were having sex in the 80s, and there were STDs in the 80s. I seriously doubt it has gotten that much worse today vs then, but I just don't have the stats to prove it this morning.

As for yuor implication that abortion causes infertility, your anecdoatal evidence says yes, mine says no. I know people who have had abortions and have not struggled with infertility. Plus, if your friends had abortions in the 80s, its 20+ years later. A 15-year-old in 1989 is 34 today. I'm guessing age is as much of the fertility issues as anything.

Posted by: To Amelia | March 13, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

"I'd rather take the matches away from my kids before they're old enough to play with fire -- than give them lessons on how to safely and enjoyably start a fire while they're still in elementary school."

So I take it none of your children are in scouts?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

DBrown, I am not a doctor. But I believe the HPV vaccine is targeted for females because the virus does not cause ill effects in males. But I agree getting at the source of transmission (males and females) is a good way to elminate or limit the spread of the virus. My guess is when they get a reliable vaccine for women, they will work on one for men. Any doctors out there that can add or correct my statements?

Posted by: foamgnome | March 13, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Chances are these STD kids were told in minute detail about how it is their bodies to do as they please and that it is ok. What a shame they were flushed down the drain by the liberal sex ed establishment. The only way not to get these is by ABSTINENCE.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Contraceptive services and STD services are both needed to help teenage girls get all the help they need"

What, so they can have sex with multiple partners without any consequences?


Posted by: GutlessCoward | March 13, 2008 10:55 AM

GC-They have been having sex outside of marriage since the beginning of time. The reality of the consequences (no BC) will not change that. How do you plan to stop it? Have those who do engage in premarital sex get STDs and die?

Posted by: to GC | March 13, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

This is just another example of the effect of the breakdown of the family especially families with two working parents. While mom and dad are out fulfilling their desiers, so is their daughter. Most of this behavior takes place between 3pm and 6pm, not at midnight. This is yet another reason why someone needs to be in the home while the children are in the home, not just when they are little. We also need to explain that being liberated and in charge or your sexuality means using it responsibly, not giving it away.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Justlurking - its ridiculous to compare starting fires or driving to having sex. Because, as was pointed out later, scouts is a perfect example of learning about fire safety. Also, driving is against the law before the age of 16 and always without a license. I don't remember what the age is for getting your license to have sex, do you?

nofluer - I understand your point that all should be included, but amongst teenagers HPV and chlamydia are going to be your most prevalent.

Amelia - please show me where the proof is that abortions lead to infertility? I certainly know many women who have gone on to give birth and I also know many women who never had an abortion who have fertility issues. I am inclined to agree here that age is a larger factor.

Second, Amelia, my husband went to school in Fairfax as well - late 80's, early 90's. I went to school in NY where we were allowed to discuss things like STDs and birth control and hand out condoms. In discussions with him, we have discovered that not only was sex more prevalent amongst the people he knew in his school, but they were much more ignorant about what was safe. Kids who experience sex education as you describe are more likely to think oral sex is safe, for example. We also grew up with an attitude that if there was no condom, there was no sex, whereas where he went the attitude was that you didn't use condoms with someone you were in an actual relationship with because it showed you didn't trust the person and would be considered offensive, plus it helped define that it was an actual relationship as opposed to "just hooking up." So yes, I do attribute the fact that I was 19 my first time while he was 12 his, that I have always used condoms, while he did maybe 25% of the time, and the amount of knowledge I have on the subject (its amazing how many people don't know the proper way to put on a condom, for example) to how NY handled the subject in school compared to conservative Virginia. They just accepted STDs and pregnancy as almost...inevitable. I guess because they were never really taught how it didn't have to be, as we were.

To GutlessCoward - I actually do agree with a safe drug policy too. Needle exchanges, for example, are shown to be effective. A junkie will need a hit whether its a clean needle or not. But if a clean needle is an option, he will take it. Same as people are more likely to use a condom if its right there, readily available instead of having to stop and go to a store. I work with an organization that distributes condoms to sex workers, so I see this firsthand. Something else we should consider if we would like to increase condom usage in teenagers is distributing the female condom. This has advantages that would make many people more willing to use it. Back to drugs, I also do believe that there is a new movement amongst teenagers toward prescription drug usage. Any overdose that has occured with these could have been prevented with education on dosage. As for drinking, many parents would rather pick their drunk kids up themselves or have their children drink at home than to have them drive afterward or with friends who have been. To say they shouldn't be drinking at all is not the point, because the kids of parents who say that are just the ones who keep it hidden, they don't necessarily do it less.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

"The "average" reported rate is not evenly distributed among racial groups. African American teen girls are infected at almost 50%, while Anglo teen girls are infected at about 20%. This means that sex education is a civil rights issue. Why is no one talking about it as such?"

No, the real issue is why african american culture is so promiscuous and why african americans are accepting this culture and young girls are paying the price.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

For all of you in the "Teenages are going to have sex anyway, give them condoms" camp:

Thousands of teenagers die every year do to alcohol and drug use. Are you going to be the parent that gives them a "safe" place to party? Think of how many lives can be saved if all you "safe sex" advocates pushed a "safe drug" agenda.

Also, condom education has been around for decades in the Washington DC area, and the HIV infection rates have remained the same for over 20 years. People criticise abstinence only education for being ineffective, but "comdom" education doesn't work either. What's up with that?

Posted by: GutlessCoward | March 13, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Yep, lolly. Right on! I'm so hot right now filling my desire to pay the mortgage. Ya, right there. Send that email. You know I want it. More more. I can't wait for my 11am meeting. I'm flushing already.

Posted by: atb | March 13, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad that this discussion includes the fact that the study only includes the most common STDs, and not all relevant STDs. However, the CDC press release also included this information:

1. The "average" reported rate is not evenly distributed among racial groups. African American teen girls are infected at almost 50%, while Anglo teen girls are infected at about 20%. This means that sex education is a civil rights issue. Why is no one talking about it as such?

2. Contraceptive services and STD services are both needed to help teenage girls get all the help they need, but few receive both kinds of services (38%). But even more depressingly, that 38% may be getting very poor quality services. Ridiculously, some of these programs can claim to be "contraceptive services" and still be lacking critical information like the connection between unprotected sex and pregnancy.

I would like to see more national conversation on these topics as well. They are just as important.

I write a blog about adolescent sexuality, and this was my post topic today as well.

Dr. Karen Rayne

Posted by: Karen Rayne | March 13, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Apparently, due to the difficulty in diagnosing some of these illnesses, the numbers may be higher than reported. I heard a doctor on the radio say that he estimated the chances of a teenager having an STD were 50%

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

The "average" reported rate is not evenly distributed among racial groups. African American teen girls are infected at almost 50%, while Anglo teen girls are infected at about 20%. This means that sex education is a civil rights issue. Why is no one talking about it as such?

How do you figure this is a civil rights issue? This is a parental issue, a personal responsibility issue. Parents have the responsibility to teach their children, black or white, about the effects/consequences of sexual behavior.

Posted by: momof3boys | March 13, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Amelia, I guess your friends have some sort of backward analysis going on in their own minds. Not being able to have a child when your mature and ready, really isn't equivalent to having regrets about aborting a child when they were not ready to handle the responsibility. So teenagers should keep their unwanted children just in case they face infertility later on? The more responsible choice is to educate yourself about your fertility and consider starting your family in your 20s not in your teens. Abortion really doesn't have much to do with it. Because according to their logic, it is just as tragic as saying if I had a child when I was most fertile (around 18) without ever considering abortion (purposely getting pregnant at your most fertile age), then I wouldn't be so upset about not having a child later on. But infertility tends to make people a little less logical then they would otherwise be.

Posted by: Are your friends serious? | March 13, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Someone's got to fix this time stamp thing. I could NOT figure out what ATB was talking about until I got to the end. But, now LOL as I go off to another 2 hr meeting.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | March 13, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

As a male, why is it that not a single word was given about boys/men and STD's? That is, unless 'only' females carry/give STD's (This is nonesense, of course.) Until males get the anti-HPV shot (and get the same critical protection females are getting) the HPV STD (gotta love abriv. ...) rates will never go to low enough rates. That might be good for the sick people who think that is a good way to control sex in teens but it only means more children will get STD's and suffer.

Posted by: DBrown | March 13, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Arg! WaPo keeps losing my posts.

An issue is a civil rights problem if it affects different groups in radically different proportions. STD contractions among teenage girls are clearly a civil rights issue because of the dramatically higher rate among African American girls.

As to the gender issue, it's just a data crunching method. When analyzing this amount of data, reducing the number of variables to include only a single gender helps reduce the spurious number of statistical correlations. I suspect the CDC will be analyzing the boy data soon, if they're not already.

Posted by: Karen Rayne | March 13, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

DBrown has a point. However, women suffer more long term consequences from STDs. Women get cervical cancer from some forms of HPV. Men don't get cervical cancer. Women's tubes can become scarred by STDs, women can get PID from untreated STDs. Men don't have these problems. Plus, its more difficult to test for STDs in men. Women can be swabbed. Some tests (clymedia for example) requires a needle for men (or it did about 10 years ago, maybe times have changed). What man is going to voluntarily undergo that screening?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

WashPost needs to check their clock or something. The posts are all wonky in with their time stamps and showing up out of order.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

"Contraceptive services and STD services are both needed to help teenage girls get all the help they need"

What, so they can have sex with multiple partners without any consequences?


Posted by: GutlessCoward | March 13, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

A few months ago another study showed that teenage pregnancy had also increased. Are any of you aware that in the federally mandated abstinence only education that educators are not allowed to talk about certain things even when asked specific questions? When parents and educators are ready to actually listen to kids instead of telling them what they should do, maybe we would have this epidemic. Talk to these kids, allow them to ask questions and answer them honestly. Tell them what you expect from them and hope that they will make the right decisions. If as parents and educators, we've done our jobs right, they will make the right decisions.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Why are these statistics shocking to anyone? STDs are extremely common in the adult population. It shouldn't be a surprise that teens, who as a group are almost as sexually active as adults, also have a high rate of infection.

CDC estimates that 20 percent of the population is infected with the herpes virus (and a good number of them are asymptomatic and unaware.) CDC also estimates that HPV is extremely common among women- in the 20-24 age group, for example, they estimate that almost 50 percent of women are infected.

It's not just teens who need guidance on preventing STDs- it's everybody!

Posted by: acorn | March 13, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

This is yet another example of the cost of both parents working. The entire structure of the family has dissolved. There is little supervision or support for children these days. While mom and dad are out fulfilling their desires, so are your teens! This is also why someone needs to be in the home as long as the children are living there, not just when they are little. Most of the illicit teen behavior takes place between 3pm and 6pm, not midnight.

Posted by: lolly | March 13, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Wow, lolly.

I'm surprised that it took us this long to lay this problem at the feet of working mothers. Thank you SOOO much for finally setting me straight on the idea that it is working parents are the source of all modern scourges.

Look, guys, this needs to be a multipronged attack. You need to teach them that this is not a fun party activity, this is something sacred. THEN you back that up by saying "but WHEN you are old enough to be ready, here is what you need to know about birth control and protecting yourself from disease." It suggests respect for your child to give them the full information, including why these risks are critical to control.

Look, I had one sexual partner. After marriage. I got HPV from him. GO FIGURE. This is something that happens regardless of the moral fault of the woman/girl involved. I'm the poster child for abstinence, and I still had to deal with this. And do you suppose Elliot Spitzer's wife had any idea what she was at risk for? Hmm . . .doesn't matter how "pure" you are, this is something that can happen to you without your input. Indeed, some of these things can be transmitted during delivery to the fetus. I assume you figure that is punishment from G*d or something? WOW. Must be great to be among the chosen.

Posted by: Totally amazed | March 13, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"Didn't understand that fertility decreases as they age."

How stupid are these women? Of course fertility decreases with age in women. Hundreds of magazine articles, tv shows, books have discussed this ad nauseum. There should be no regret, they made the best decision for them at the time. If they were ready and able to raise a child in their 20s, they would have. Whose to say their lives would have been better if they had?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I didn't say that it was the fault of working mothers, but that both parents being out of the home is the cause. Someone should be there, whether it is dad or mom doesn't matter, but the kids need to know that they are a priority. The fact that you assumed I was blaming working mothers says more about your unmanaged guilt than anything I could say. If you knew what you were doing was right, you wouldn't be so defensive. Really, people, you cannot expect them to raise themselves.

Posted by: lolly | March 13, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Um, despite the difficulty in reading the posts out of order, a couple points are clear:

1) Several of you are operating under the misguided notion that the plural of anecdote is data. It is not. No matter how many anecdotes you accumulate, you do not have evidence of anything (other than that you like wasting your time memorizing anecdotes).

2) Many of you are using poor analogies as a defense of your philosophy. Having sex is only like having sex -- it is not like playing with matches or driving a car. Analogies are only as good as the similarities between the activities and, therefore, are limited by the differences between the activities. In this case, it's rather difficult to compare teen sex to other behaviors. Sex is, of course, a very different biologically driven process as compared to, say, doing homework.

My take on all this: The type of sex ed kids get should be determined by what studies indicate produces the best outcomes. Of course, we should all decide, a priori, what those outcomes should be. Is it % of teens who have had sex? Is it % of teens that, when they have sex, engage in safe sex? Is it % of teens that have an STD? Is it the teen pregnancy rate?

What do we do if abstinence education decreases the % of teens engaging in sex but increases the % of teens with STDs? This is, in fact, quite possible.

Also, as a side note, even in abstinence education, the basic facts of sex, condoms, birth control, etc, are taught (though sometimes incorrectly). The question really revolves around the VALUES that we want these classes to transmit to our children. Most of the time, though, as we know, teaching a 15 year old values about sex is silly because sexual values are already in place by that time.

So, all the basic facts should be taught, but what people should debate is the context in which they are taught.

Posted by: Ryan | March 13, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I did NOT say that abortion causes infertility.

What I said was that the same friends who thought abortion was no big deal - that getting rid of one baby didn't matter b/c they could have more later, were horrified to discover that it's not as easy to get pregnant in your mid-30's as it was in your mid 20's.

And they all complain that no one told them that before. That they learned about birth control and they thought it wouldn't matter to them in the future if they had abortions, but that they now regret it b/c they are faced with wanting children but they can't have them or are otherwise going through difficult and expensive fertility treatments b/c they thought they would be fertile up until age 50 or so. Didn't understand that fertility decreases as they age.

Women don't know enough about their own fertility and teaching birth control isn't the same thing.

Posted by: Amelia | March 13, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I don't know that abortion influences fertility in any way. I personally know of two women in their 30s who had multiple abortions in their younger years (one had 2, one had 5+ abortions...yes, that awful) and both delivered healthy children.

But thanks to reading these comments, I now know that if we just put all women back in the kitchen full-time, all our problems will miraculously dissolve. Now, where's my apron??

Posted by: opinionater | March 13, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"Can the WaPo folks PLEASE do something about the clock? This is the second day that this blog and On Balance (at least) have had this problem. It makes the thread almost impossible to follow - there are replies posted before the original message; there are messages posted timestamped in the future."

The clock problem has had no effect on the quality of the comments.

Posted by: Jake | March 13, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm younger than most of you I think, and I was exposed to the "abstinence plus" education. This was, in a nutshell that STDs were a possibility of sexual intercourse and the only way to totally prevent them is abstinence. BUT (and this is a big but) if you choose to have sex, do it safely. Use condoms and the pill, don't have multiple partners without realizing the possible consequences, both physically and emotionally.

I know that some of you see this as an all or nothing thing, but seriously, a 13 year old (6th to 7th grade) is able to understand a speech such as this. Give your kids credit in having some reasoning skills.

Posted by: New Voice | March 13, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Can the WaPo folks PLEASE do something about the clock? This is the second day that this blog and On Balance (at least) have had this problem. It makes the thread almost impossible to follow - there are replies posted before the original message; there are messages posted timestamped in the future. If only a few messages were affected it wouldn't be bad, but once message counts start increasing it becomes much more difficult to figure out who's responding to what. For example, I found atb's 10:22 message totally bizarre until I realized that it was a reply to lolly's 11:05 message, at which point it made more sense. (And FWIW it's 10:35 AM EDT as I type this, but I don't know if it will show up in the blog as 10:35 or 11:35.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 13, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I've just been told that the clock problems have been fixed. If you see problems continue, please e-mail me at Thanks.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | March 13, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

So lolly, your advise is to keep your kids on a short leash and never let them out of your sight? Well I guess that's easier than actually parenting.

Look, I was a latchkey kid from about the 3rd or 4th grade. It didn't make me promiscuous, I managed to graduate high and go on to college without an STD or baby. Stop blaming society and our culture for poor parenting. Most of us that came out of single parent homes or homes where both parents worked outside the home well adjusted adults. I've never been arrested, been in an abusive relationship, or joined a cult, but what it did was make me self sufficient and independent.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

But thanks to reading these comments, I now know that if we just put all women back in the kitchen full-time, all our problems will miraculously dissolve. Now, where's my apron??

Posted by: opinionater | March 13, 2008 11:31 AM


Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

My daughter just turned 12 and although I will definately get her the HPV vaccine, I'm debating with myself whether to do it at her check up next week or wait a year or 2 while potential side effects become known. She is a "young" 12, as in puberty has not started (comes late in both sides of the family) and she has no interest in boys yet. What would you folks do?

Posted by: momof3 | March 13, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see a breakdown by age. There is a big difference between young teens (13-15), middle teens (16-17), and older teens (18-19) who are actually adults.

And to lolly, working parents don't necessarily mean that the kids are home alone. There are plenty of parents who adjust their schedules to be home in the afternoons and plenty of teens involved in afterschool activities who aren't home anyway.

BTW, I knew many teens who were having sex when I was a teen, and I'm in my fifties now. In fact, I know one girl who had sex in the woods, in cars, and in friends' homes because her mom stayed home so there was always supervision at home :).

In my grandmother's day, teens were having sex. We seem to forget that, historically, many people were married before they reached twenty.

Posted by: another lurker | March 13, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what is so amazing is the apparent ability of people on this board to read things that aren't there. No one said anything about putting women back in the kitchen and advocating for parents to be present in the lives of their children is not the same as keeping them on a short leash. Knowing where they are and with whom they are associating is called parenting. Finally, 11:40 - your experience is yours and not representive of anything other than your experience. While children of divorce and/or single parents can come out o.k., I think is not optimal and should be something that everyone should try to avoid because the liklihood that children will come out damaged from those situations is significantly greater than if they are raised in a supportive, present, two parent household.

Posted by: lolly | March 13, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Momof3, My wife and i have educated our teenage daughters about HPV and have provided suggestions. It is up to them to decide if they want the innoculation or not.

BTW: HPV can be transmitted in other ways than sexual activities and there exists various forms of the virus. I think it's a complex issue.

Posted by: GutlessCoward | March 13, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

"...because the liklihood that children will come out damaged from those situations is significantly greater than if they are raised in a supportive, present, two parent household."

And your proof of this is...?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

This is why all your daughters should be vaccintated for HPV. I have talked to my daughter since she was little about her body changes and later boys and respecting yourself etc. She is 12, almost 13 now and I have started her on the HPV vaccine. I can talk to her all day about values and how I feel about things but at the end of the day it is her choice so I try to make sure I answer all questions and keep an open dialog so she can make the best choice for herself. I think if we spent more time having these conversations with our kids, daughters and sons, we would see these rates go down.

Posted by: California Mom | March 13, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Lolly -- is that you, Mom? Dad let you on the computer?

Posted by: I recognize you! | March 13, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Interesting comments today. It does seem like a small sample, though...

1) it is NOT a civil rights issue in ANY way. Are you actually saying that white female teens have a RIGHT to be infected by STDs at the same rate as non white female teens? I didn't read that in the constitution, could you show it to me?

2) abstinence only education does not give anyone enough information. I was educated in NY and my parents were quite happy that I was getting that education - they didn't want to give it to me. I think it's important from a societal perspective to understand that if teens aren't getting the education from someone who knows, they're getting it from each other.

3) You definitely have to start earlier than 12 to educate ...

Posted by: atlmom | March 13, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh, lolly. So 11:40's opinion only applies to him, but YOUR opinion applies to everyone. Got it. Check. Now I have to satisfy my desire to make an Excel spreadsheet. I've been looking forward to it all week. It's why I put my child in daycare. I'm so hot for Excel. (That was for you, ArmyBrat.)

"Finally, 11:40 - your experience is yours and not representive of anything other than your experience. While children of divorce and/or single parents can come out o.k., I think is not optimal and should be something that everyone should try to avoid because the liklihood that children will come out damaged from those situations is significantly greater than if they are raised in a supportive, present, two parent household."

Posted by: atb | March 13, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

atb: "I'm so hot for Excel. (That was for you, ArmyBrat.)"

Oh, gross! Now I'm gonna have to get that image out of my mind.

Kids should be taught from early on: if you're gonna engage in hex, you have to engage in safe hex. Stay away from that Microsoft garbage. At least use OpenOffice, every time, no matter who your partner is.

This political message has been brought to you by "Engineers for Safe Hex."

Posted by: Army Brat | March 13, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

altmom and 11:40 should check pretty much all of the social science research data in the past 20 years. If that doesn't work, then check your gut. Would you really prefer that your child grow up in a single parent household? My opinion is based in fact, 11:40's opinion is based on a single experience. Its like saying I drove drunk and didn't die, so it must not be so bad after all.

Posted by: lolly | March 13, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and so are you saying that your friends who had abortions IN THEIR TEENS, really should have had those babies? They probably never would have finished college and/or met the current husband. What are you really saying? It makes absolutely no sense.

Posted by: atlmom | March 13, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Even tho you got the name incorrect, I suspect you were talking about my post? And I said what exactly that you are referring to?

Posted by: atlmom | March 13, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

lolly- You just don't get it. If you make a claim, back it up. Show us the primary article, not an press piece. It's that simple. Otherwise, it's just your opinion.

Posted by: atb | March 13, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Of course, lolly, I am only referring to myself, in fact of out of all my well-adjusted friends who grew up in 2 parent households where the daddy went off to work everyday and mommy stayed home vacuuming in her pearls and high heels, I am the only one that came from divorced parents. I guess I was just lucky that I was able to survive such a disfunctional childhood, since according to you I should be damaged. I guess it doesn't matter that I had a huge support system of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

I don't know how you grew up, but I'm guessing from your comments I wouldn't have been happy in that household.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I think this is mostly to Lolly who seems to think that parents should stay together because statistics/research say they should.

As a product of divorce... would I prefer to live with my parents together when I grew up or separate? of course, this is anecdotal so worth almost nothing...

My parents were miserable together. This pretty much ensured that we too were miserable. Was I happier once they broke up? I was once I moved in with my Mom and my stepfather. They got along better... the atmosphere was better and it was a seriously better place to continue my childhood. So this supports that fact that it is better for the children if the miserable parents split up.

Could it have been worse after my parents split up? Absolutely... and it was while I lived with my father and his new wife. This period would have definitely fed the belief that it is much better if the parents stay together because the new parent can be a whole heck of a lot worse than the old.

Of course... it would have been optimal that my parents had a happy marriage but it just didn't happen that way.

What I am saying is that the same decision is not the correct decision for every family. I think you can look at stats all you want but it doesn't change the fact that families are comprised of individuals that don't always fit the statistics. As all the anecdotes here support (and I can support BOTH sides with my experience)... there is always someone who doesn't fit what the statistics dictate. They show you generalities that fit the average person/situation/household/whatever but that doesn't mean they hold true for a specific individual or family.

It is easy to judge someone's decision from the outside but you truly have no idea what goes on behind the scenes that you aren't privy to. I try to keep that in mind before I jump to judge someone's decision. Just because that decision might be wrong for me or even 75% of the population doesn't mean it was wrong for them.

Posted by: Billie_R | March 13, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

again, people here are reading things that aren't written. I'm talking about the population as a whole not YOU, so your specific situation is anecdotal at best. Atb - google and you will find myriad credible studies on the detrimental effects of lack of supervision and single parents/divorce on children throughout their life. This doesn't mean that some of these things can be overcome by some people, but for the vast majority the stats hold true. Teens need parents as much if not more than toddlers. Do whatever you want with your kids, but don't cry about it when your kids end up in trouble because you weren't there.

Posted by: lolly | March 13, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I"m with Lolly on this one. And Ryan, I actually don't buy most of your points. I DON"T think it's a poor analogy, because I don't buy your logic that sexual behavior is something that can't be regulated. what are we, animals? Don't most of US manage to regulate our baser instincts on a day to day basis in order to function in polite society?

I've never understood how everyone can argue that on the one hand, their precious child is the most brilliant, intelligent, wonderful, gifted human being to ever be born -- and on the other hand, their child is completely capable of ever controlling their sexual instincts and should presumably therefore be given birth control at the age of eleven or twelve. Arguing that we should prepare for the consequences because none of our children will ever be capable of controlling their behavior is ludicrous. Do we assume that our children are going to cheat in school and steal from us -- or do we assume that as parents we're capable of teaching them to make good decisions, think about the consequences of their actions and behave accordingly? Why is sexual behavior completely different?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

But Lolly, we are PART of the "population as a whole," so you are talking about us. I was raised in 2-parent household, my mother was home, she was miserable, they were miserable, and I'm still paying for it. I have no idea how it would have turned out if they had gotten divorced, and isn't that the point of what everyone is saying: one can't know what might have happened or what would be better. One can only guess.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | March 13, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

2:06: I think you miss understood some of us. Or me for that matter. I think there is no way to stop the desire to have sexual thoughts. That is a normal biological process. But of course you can control your OWN behavior. My point was, regardless of what the teachers, society, and parents say, there is a % of the population who will inevitable engage in some unhealthy practices. It is true at any age. There will always be a % of teens as well as adults, who engage in premarital or extramarital sexual relations. It is a fact. We live in a free society and people have the right (and often do) make bad choices. And they make bad choices about all sorts of things (not just sex). Doesn't mean we shouldn't try to impress our values on them. I am just saying regardless of how much we try to instill our own values or societies values, there has and will always be a 5 of teens who engage in sex. I don't know what studies you have been looking at. But teens having sex is not a modern thing. It has existed since the beginning of time. The problem with it today is that while your body and your hormones might be ready for sex, your mind, your finances, your emotions are not ready because we have delayed adulthood. We are working against the biological time clock for societal reasons. Of course we can control behavior. We start to control and monitor behavior in very small children (18-24 months old). But just saying don't teach kids about sex, their options, the consequences, abstinence, and moral values will not stop all kids from engaging in sexual practices. I actually think Lolly has some point about teens needing parents. But that is not limited to married parents or parents who have a SAHP. I plan to change my work hours to get off when my kids come home from school when my youngest goes to kindergarten and my oldest is in 3 grade. Then I can be home when things are happening. But I am not crazy enough to believe this will prevent them from having teenage sexual affairs. If kids want to have sex, they will find a way. Heck, they are doing it the bathrooms of schools. I don't plan on going to school with them each day. Teach your kids the facts, teach them your values, and help them to make good decisions. But most of all be there when they make the bad ones. We all make bad decisions at times. You just hope and pray your kids limit their bad decisions to the ones that do not have a lifetime consequence.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 13, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

5 was suppose to be %. I forgot to hit shift.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 13, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm with foamgnome. 2:06, it's a development issue: the prefrontal cortex -- the part that helps us make good decisions -- doesn't develop until the late teens, at the earliest, and maybe not until the early- to mid-twenties. So on the one hand, you have these brilliant, caring, wonderful teens -- but they don't always have the judgment to make good decisions, because that part of their brain is still developing. Which is why we don't let them drive, vote, drink, or make other "adult" decisions until they're older (mostly unsuccessfully, but we try). And then you fill up those brilliant-but-impulsive kids with hormones that basically make them think about nothing but sex for a few years, and that poor underdeveloped logical side of the brain is just completely outmanned.

Which is precisely why any kind of all-or-nothing approach is doomed to failure. What was that recent study that showed that kids who signed virginity pledges still had sex at about the same rates as kids who didn't? When "good" kids with high moral standards have unprotected sex, that should be a sign that simply instilling good morals, and explaining potential consequences, isn't going to cut it. It's necessary but insufficient.

I do have one of those smart, wonderful, great kids (who is luckily a few years away from these issues). And I plan to do everything in my power to be there for her, to teach her about the moral and emotional aspects of sex, to help her develop the self-respect to say no to the teenage hound dogs that come around, and to keep track of where she's going, what she's doing, and who she's with. But I'm also going to presume that all of that may well be spitting into the wind of teenage hormones, and that if she decides she wants to have sex, she's going to find a way to do it. She may be too young to see around corners, but I'm not, and I know exactly where that could lead. So if I can't keep her from turning that corner, I'm sure as heck going to do my best to help her protect herself from the train wreck that may be waiting on the other side. And that means sex education, explaining birth control, and providing it if necessary.

Drinking is an ok analogy (with the added caveat that that's illegal and sex isn't). I don't want her drinking. I'm going to teach her to say no, and I'm sure as [bleep] not going to give her beer (just like I'm not going to go procure her a boyfriend). But if she makes a bad decision and drinks anyway, my number one goal immediately changes to getting her home safely. So I will absolutely give her cab fare, give her a ride home at any hour -- whatever I need to do to make sure that one bad decision doesn't mushroom into a life-changing experience.

Posted by: Laura | March 13, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

lolly, since you were the one to bring up these so-called "facts", don't you thing the burden of proof should be on you?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Very well said to Ryan.

Frankly until we start viewing children and teens as sexual beings in their own right and dealing with their development in that way, as individuals, educating them and respecting their perspectives properly, firestorms and problems will continue to be rampant.

It's so opposite to every thing we claim to want for children, so opposite to the way we treat almost every other way of their development, no wonder most people can barely function in a stable relationship when they get older.

Posted by: Liz D | March 13, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

re: Laura @ 2:51, now that's what I call parenting.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Lolly, are you at home right now with your kids or at work? Either way, it appears that you have been posting for the past three hours! How much supervision are those kids getting or how much work are you getting done? Pot? Kettle?

Posted by: sr | March 13, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

actually, we haven't heard since 2:00, which gave her time to go meet her kids at the school bus...

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

To: 02:06 PM

You said: "Don't most of US manage to regulate our baser instincts on a day to day basis in order to function in polite society?"

With his upbringing, education and social standing, Spitzer couldn't do it (if you don't know who I am talking about, check the front page!), do you think the general population of teenagers can do it?

Like one of the articles states: evolutionary-wise, we are pretty much the same as we were a milennia ago, but now, we dress in ties and jackets. - clearly, this is a paraphrase, so don't quote me.

Posted by: sr | March 13, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

sr: "With his upbringing, education and social standing, Spitzer couldn't do it ..."

I seriously doubt that many teenagers are paying $4,300 a pop ($80K in total) to hookers with histories of drug abuse and homelessness (according to her MySpace page). Or getting into serious trouble for money laundering, structuring, smurfing, or even violating the Mann Act.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

"Heck, they are doing it the bathrooms of schools."

That's a classy gal!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

If the girls are "one in four", what are the stats on the boys? They (girls) have to be getting it from somewhere... Personally, I think it's a disgrace. I waited until after college. What's with these kids? Why are they pretending to be mature?

Posted by: Wondering | March 13, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

To the person that said "This is the result of grown men preying on young girls IMO", you are a moron. Teens are shagging teens. What does a few perverted old men have to do with it?

Posted by: Kim | March 14, 2008 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Do you people See reality?, Sure well your around you can take the "matches out of your kids hands" however will you get rid of fire or temptation? Safety is the only way to handle real life stuff. and yes I am someone who has a kid and believes in safe drinking/drugs I wasn't raised that way and the only difference is honesty face reality your little princess is snorting coke and getting laid, now do you want her to be safe or afraid

Posted by: DJ Panic | March 15, 2008 3:27 AM | Report abuse

Most of these people talking are those who've had their sex education in the 80's and 90's. While you may think my opinion doesn't matter on the subject because "I'm too young" (19 in fact), I feel that my opinion and thoughts should make the most sense to you because your discussing sexual education in the here and now.

There's much more information on STD's, HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy for today's youth. Most are very capable of making their own decisions, but lack the knowledge to do this with. More and more teens today are making blind choices because they have no information on the implications of sex. More and more teens see sex as being acceptable, and as much as I hate to admit the influence pop culture has on the subject, it has much today with the way in which sex is viewed. Many stars of today's culture are pregnant with no husband and the numbers are just increasing. I mean look at Jamie Lynn Spears, not even 18 and already expecting. Sex is so open and acceptable today that it needs to be discussed in further detail.

The details don't necessarily take place in the classroom, think about how many parents find communicating about sex with their own children to be worthy of blushing. These men and women are not failures as parent because sex is personal. It's an intimate affair that no one wants to share with the people who conceived them by the same means. This is all the more reason to include sex education in the class.

Sex education in my classroom included reproduction, the actual physical happenings in the body as well as sex and its own implications. Abstinence is BY FAR the BEST way for problems to be eliminated, but what about those teens that have already gone beyond that point, don't they deserve a chance at understanding what can happen to them if they don't protect themselves, don't they too deserve to understand the ins and outs of sex. Education is not the cause of teen promiscuity; it's the only way to prevent it. I can't think of one person who goes out at night to promiscuous and thinks to themselves "I hope tonight I get HIV!" Educating today's youth is the only way to prevent and help reduce the incidences that are taking place.

Sex education, in conjunction with abstinence education, is the best possible way for protecting the innocent.

Posted by: Raneesha | April 20, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

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