Young people are reaching puberty much earlier in life now. They are also having an increased awareness of and exposure to experiences and issues relating to sex and relationships. There is an increasing rate of marital and relationship break ups which are creating a complexly diverse set of domestic arrangements. There are now more instances of single parent families and family units with more than two parents a part of them. The age of the two parent family is fast receding.
Young people are being introduced to personal relationships much earlier. This is taking a mental, emotional and physical toll on them. They have access to information about relationships at their disposal with no restrictions or guidance. They are therefore more aware of the issues and also more interested in exploring and testing out the knowledge they have. Many adults have adopted casual attitudes to sex and relationships; while a lot of others have become socially isolated and awkward, increasingly reliant on proxy methods to make connections. They are neither the best role models or particularly admirable trendsetters.
It would appear that nowadays in the minds of many young people being sexually active is being conflated with sexual and emotional maturity. The reality though seems to be that being down for whatever doesn't quite mean being smart about what one does or it's consequences. Hence the increase in sexually transmitted diseases amongst young people and high levels of teenage pregnancies in some countries. There appears to be a greater need for sex and relationship education in schools and in the home. Current sex and relationship education focuses mostly on biological imperatives and gender awareness. These are important but more attention needs to be paid to self esteem, personal responsibility and life aspirations. These offer an insight into personality traits and conflicts that are likely to influence romantic choices.
In spite of religious perspectives on chastity and sexuality there is nothing intrinsically wrong with sex between consenting married or unmarried couples. However, having sex cannot be a confirmation of commitment nor is it enough by itself to constitute a lasting relationship. Building a relationship must involve self insight and a sincere shared bond between two people. It requires emotional maturity and at a young age there is a limit to the self awareness and personal insight a person can have. Knowing what to expect and what to believe in a relationship are a function of trial and error; and growth. Being able to take a step back when hormones are raging isn't something the young are renowned for doing. While it is possible for a young person to experience grown up feelings they might not necessarily have the knowledge and experience to understand the various options that might inform decisions that are about to be made.
It isn't possible to go about ones sex life unnoticed anymore. Whenever one is in a relationship the whole world's eyes are on one. They're all watching and judging. Your parents, family, friends, social media networks, neighbours, school, work colleagues, institutions and even law enforcement are forming impressions based on who you are in a relationship with. It doesn't even have to be a serious relationship. They just need to jump to the conclusion that you're having sex.
I don't think it is possible to stop teenagers from having sex but there will be opportunities to raise their awareness about the motivations and expectations that they take into sexual relationships. These are the things that will determine how they see relationships in the future. Ultimately self esteem and sexual relationship are intricately intertwined. How we see ourselves and how we are looked at by society can be influenced by the nature of the relationships we have. Achieving healthy relationships is dependent on educating young people about making healthy decisions.