Percent adolescents who have ever had sex

The percent of adolescents who have ever engaged in sexual intercourse (interpreted in most contexts to mean penile-vaginal intercourse)

This indicator is calculated as:

(# of adolescents who have ever had sexual intercourse/ Total # of adolescents) x 100  


Responses to a survey question asking whether they have ever had sexual intercourse

The question or questionnaire should specify penile-vaginal intercourse in order to minimize confusion as to the behavior the question referred to. The evaluators should disaggregate the indicator for married and un­married youth, males and females, and by age of respondent.

Evaluators may want to disaggregate by the following age ranges: 10-14, 15-19, and 20-24.

Population-based surveys

This indicator determines the extent to which adoles­cents in a program‘s intended population are sexually initiated. The indicator is useful both for designing adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) programs and for evaluating the effectiveness of existing programs aimed at postponing age at sexual debut. Because of large differences in age of the part­ners, evaluators should tabulate the indicator by single years or by age groups to guarantee accurate interpreta­tion of the indicator.

Evaluators may have problems arise in measuring this indicator in settings where sexual activity outside of marriage is stigmatized, because adolescents who have initiated sex may be reluctant to admit having done so. Given the sporadic nature of sexual activity among ado­lescents, especially younger adolescents, in many set­tings, the indicator may not reflect the number/percent of adolescents who have been sexually active in the re­cent past (e.g., the last 3 or 6 months).

sexually transmitted infection (STI), family planning, HIV/AIDS, adolescent

Boys generally initiate sex earlier than girls, because many cultures tolerate or encourage sexual activity among adolescent males. In some places, a young man‘s masculinity is questioned if he has not had sexual intercourse by a certain age (McCauley and Salter, 1995).  Re­sponses to the question of having ever had sex may thus be misreported because of cultural norms that may encourage boys to boast about early sexual experimentation, while having the opposite effect on girls, who may underreport sexual activity because of the great value placed on vir­ginity.  Furthermore, since it is not uncommon for the first sexual experience among girls to be involuntary, adolescent girls - particularly young adolescents - may be reluctant to report having already had sexual intercourse because of the shame and pain associated with that experience.