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A review of sexual behavior in the United States
Am J Psychiatry 1994;151:330-341.
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Knowledge of sexual behavior in the United States is necessary for 1) directing risk-reduction interventions aimed at preventing transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted pathogens and 2) appreciating the current normative patterns of sexual behavior. METHODS: The authors reviewed American surveys that included measures of sexual behavior and analyzed the 1988-1990 General Social Surveys. RESULTS: Most American males have intercourse by 16-17 years of age, and females do so by 17-18 years of age. The majority of young adults aged 18-24 have multiple, serial sex partners. Among adults 25-59 years old, relative monogamy appears to be the norm: 80% of heterosexually active men and 90% of heterosexually active women in this age group report having had only one sex partner in the preceding year. The average frequency of intercourse among such monogamous individuals is one to three times per week. Approximately 25% of adults have had heterosexual anal intercourse. Up to 20% of adult men report that they have had a homosexual experience; 1%-6% report such an experience during the preceding year. CONCLUSIONS: Through accumulated studies, data are now available on normative sexual behavior across the life cycle. Such data should assist in psychiatric diagnosis and in the development of treatment goals that rely on assumptions regarding normative behavior. A large proportion of young heterosexual persons are at considerable risk for sexually transmitted disease. Sexual history taking and risk-reduction counseling should be integral components of psychiatric care.

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