Macau teen dating, sex attitude study results announced

Zoey Tsang

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A pioneer survey conducted by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has revealed a growing trend of teenagers dating and having sex at a younger age. The research findings released in Macau on 5 July also showed a high acceptance of intimate body contact among friends of any status.

The research titled “Teenagers’ Courtship & Sex” was a collaborative effort between Dr Siu-fung Lin, Assistant Professor from the Department of Applied Social Studies at CityU, and the Macao Catholic Family Advisory Council.

The research conducted earlier this year involved a survey of 2,798 full-time primary (P.6) and secondary school (F.1-F.3) students in Macau aged between 10 and 20. Participants filled in a questionnaire concerning their attitude and behaviour during courtship. Interviews were also carried out with a selection of students and analysed qualitatively with regard to their dating behaviour, decisions made during courtship, family life and parents’ involvement in sex education.

The analysis revealed the following trends among teenagers and youngsters:

(1) Dating at a young age: 17% of participants were currently dating and 61% found dating acceptable between 11 and 16 years-of-age.

(2) No clear boundary between relationships and behaviour: About half of interviewees believed friends of different genders, whether dating or not, could hold hands (57%) or hug or hold each other around the waist (49%). Nearly 40% accepted the act of sitting on the other’s lap (39%), or sleeping together (38%).

(3) Limited understanding of sexuality: More than 50% of respondents incorrectly answered basic questions related to pregnancy. For example, 11% said pregnancy could result from kissing. Almost two thirds (64%) of respondents participated in talks on sex education organised by schools, yet only 37% claimed the talks were useful.

The research revealed that children as young as 10 years-of-age have had sexual experiences or intercourse. The most common age at which teenagers first had sexual intercourse was 13-years-of-age (29%). Half of the respondents who said they had sexual experiences had only had one sex partner, while the other half had between two and 16 partners.

“It is alarming that 76% of our participants had sex at home and some reported that they had sex at home while their parents were in the house,” said Dr Lin. She said the findings raised concerns that it was not only young people in need of sex education but also parents.

With their limited knowledge about sexuality, Dr Lin attributed the high incidence of sexual activity to the youngsters being bored with their daily activities.

Dr Lin added that the percentage of Hong Kong teenagers and youngsters with dating or sexual experience was even higher than that of their Macau counterparts. In her survey conducted in 2006, she found that almost 15% of the 3,335 local teenagers interviewed had sexual experience. Dr Lin suggested that governments and schools in both Hong Kong and Macau should provide formal sex education as soon as possible. Also, sexuality education should be extended to parents, teachers and social workers.

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