SOCIAL INDICATORS 2006
Family Formation and Sexuality (Part 2)
Despite the decrease in teenage sexual behavior and less unprotected sexual behavior, there is a rapid increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases:
After declining somewhat erratically from 1975 to 1997, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) rose by 28% between 1997 and 2004. The rate for Chlamydia rose 55.5%. The CDC estimates that at present one in five adolescent and adult Americans has genital herpes.
The rate of people contracting Aids, the most deadly of sexually transmitted diseases, is also not good:
After peaking in 1992, the rate of new aids declined almost by half between 1992 and 1997. However, the rate has flattened out since that time and may be poised to increase based on some assessments.
All of these statistics point to significant changes with regard to family and sexuality. Recent debate of same-sex unions shows that the very ideas of marriage and family are in a state of flux. If we accept the premise that the two parent household is the optimal circumstance for raising children and marriage the optimal circumstance for engaging in sexual behavior, then the picture is not good.
While the abortion rate has declined by about 20% over the last twenty years it is still true that one in four pregnancies ends in abortion. More than one-third of children are born to unmarried women. Some of these women, know doubt, go on to marry or live in stable relationships with fathers, but many children born into two parent families also experience divorce and loss of the two parent status. (I want to be clear here that I am not saying that any particular one parent home is a hopeless situation by any means. I am addressing public policy and what we know from looking at the aggregate.) While there is some modest good news about teen sexual behavior, the overall increase in sexually transmitted diseases is very high and rising.
Another cultural factor related to this is the rise in the availability of pornography. The pornography industry was in retreat as recently as the early 1990s but the rise of the internet has brought it roaring back to life. It is easily a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Images and video graphically portraying virtually every imaginable sexual act can be accessed with a few mouse clicks by children with unfiltered internet access. Even with filtered access children can be confronted with pornography. Chat rooms provide ready made connections with children for sexual predators. All this is not to mention the potential desensitizing impact of pornography on significant numbers of adults in our culture. The pornography industry has surged in the last four to five years and most of the social indicators like the ones given above only report up to the years 2001-2003. It remains to be seen what impact pornography will have.
- Two parent families have declined from 87.7% in 1960 to about 67% over the last decade.
- The divorce rate has remained constant at 50% since 1977.
- The percentage of births to unwed mothers has increased from 10% in 1970 to 35.8% in 2004.
- The percentage of births to unwed teens, after rising from 5.4% in 1970 to 9.9% in 1994, has declined to 8.3% in 2004.
- After reaching an abortion rate high of 30.4 per 100 pregnancies in 1983, the rate dropped to 24.2 in 2002.
- The percentage of unmarried nineteen year olds who reported that they have had ever had sexual intercourse in 1988 and 2002, dropped from 76.5 to 70.1 for girls and from 78% to 65.2% for boys. For seventeen year olds the percentage rose from 38.3% to 43.1% for girls and declined from 57.2% to 39.4%.
- After declining from 1975 high of 1,075 cases of sexually transmitted diseases per 100,000 population to at least a forty year low of 607 cases in 1997, the rate increased by 33.3% to 809 in 2004. About 1 in 5 Americans has genital herpes.
- New incidence of Aids reached a high in 1992 of 31.2 new cases per 100,000 population before dropping by half to 16 in 1997. Since that time the rate has bottomed at 13.8 but rose to 14.4 in 2004.
- Pornography has become a multi-billion dollar industry in less than a decade through internet marketing creating anonymity and low cost for a rapidly growing base of consumers.
Most indictors related to family formation and sexuality suggest a significantly declining quality of life.