Extent of regretted sexual intercourse among young teenagers in Scotland: a cross sectional survey

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7244.1243 (Published 6 May 2000)
Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1243

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It would be interesting to see if the questions re "Social class of father, social class of mother and family composition" looked for the presence and depth of other significant relationships of all ages (mentors I guess)?

In addition, is it possible that any realisation of 'regret' is correlated to 'intelligence' - since very little time has passed, the understanding of all the significance of the event will not have occurred to many?

Competing interests: None declared

Steve Metcalfe, technical consultant

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I wonder if we can rely on a survey based on multiple choice answers, and further more is not clear if these children have been consulted directly, I mean if someone spoke to them to verify their answers. I also think that the result of this survey is rather worrying as we seem to have so many children regretting an experience they will never be able to withdraw from. How can we have so many children, minors dealing with something so natural but, I regret to say, so dangerous.

We all know sexual behaviour is not just another attitude but maybe the strongest and most complex act that our rational self can put in being. As we have seen from the survey result, many of these children have been , in many ways persuaded or even slightly forced and this can be considered a hazard for their future relationships and state of mind. I am not a fervent catholic nor a narrow minded person, but no minor can be left alone to face such a complex decision.

Competing interests: None declared

Giuliana , school

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Dickson et al.'s paper published in 1998 (Wight et al.'s reference 2) also stressed regret, leading one to the suspicion that it was pushing an anti-sex agenda. I wonder how many teenagers would report regret about their first intercourse if they were asked about the first intercourse (or sexual encounter) in which they experienced orgasm. The difference between the 'regret' rates for boys and girls might then disappear.

Competing interests: None declared

Juliet Richters, Research Fellow

National Centre in HIV Social Research

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The paragraph for This week in the BMJ reads:Young teenagers often regret early sexual intercourse

Sexual intercourse before the age of 16 is often regretted but most studies have been done in older teenagers looking back. Wight et al surveyed over 7000 14 year olds in Scotland, among whom 18% of boys and 15% of girls had had heterosexual intercourse (p 1243); they found that 32% of girls and 27% of boys said that their first intercourse had happened too early, and of these 13% and 5% respectively said that it should not have happened at all. For girls regret was related to lack of control of the situation.

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The title SHOULD read:FEW teenagers regret early sexual intercourse. The abstract should read:

FEW teenagers regret early sexual intercourse

Sexual intercourse before the age of 16 is often NOT regretted but most studies have been done in older teenagers looking back. Wight et al surveyed over 7000 14 year olds in Scotland, among whom 18% of boys and 15% of girls had had heterosexual intercourse (p 1243); they found that 68% of girls and 73% of boys said that their first intercourse had NOT happened too early, and of these ONLY 13% and 5% respectively said that it should not have happened at all. For girls,THE FEW regretS WERE related to lack of control of the situation. INFORMATION WAS LACKING ON WHETHER SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WAS EXPERIENCED WITHIN A LOVE/FRIENDSHIP OR OTHER MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP.

Competing interests: None declared

James W Prescott

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6 May 2000

What if the news media should choose to spin the equally valid conclusions that most underaged children who had sex early had no regrets?

Competing interests: None declared

P Lim, Lecturer

Ninewells Hospital

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