Intended for healthcare professionals


Teenage sex

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 17 February 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:390
  1. Sue Stuart-Smith
  1. Registrar in child and adolescent psychiatry Child Mental Health, High Wycombe, Bucks HP13 6PQ

    Cognitive immaturity increases the risks

    The recent marriage of a 13 year old British girl to a 19 year old man in Turkey has caused a widespread outcry. In the ensuing debate, attention has focused on the large number of girls in Britain who are provided with contraception while under the age of consent. In 1993-4, 37000 girls aged under 16 attended family planning clinics in England. We do not know how many of these girls were as young as 13, but, according to the Department of Health, for 15 year olds in the same year the rate was 14.2 per 100.1 Very little has been written on the subject of when it becomes appropriate for a young person to embark on sexual relationships. How then are doctors and other health professionals to address the issue of under age sex? In practice, when is it reasonable to reassure worried parents that their child's sexual behaviour is not a cause for concern?

    In England the law distinguishes between girls below the age of 13 and girls below the age of 16, the so called age of consent. With girls under 13, intercourse is always unlawful whatever the circumstances, whereas, …

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