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Mar. 31st, 2009


"In 1950s Dutch society, most young people began having sex when they were in their 20s and were married or engaged. During the 1960s, unintended teenage pregnancies rose alarmingly. Seeing this, family physicians and clinics were quick to make contraceptives easily accessible to youth. Dutch teen pregnancy and abortion rates are now among the lowest in the developed world.

National surveys show that most Dutch parents accept that young people choose to have sex in committed relationships during their later teens. Research I conducted found that a majority of Dutch parents are even willing to permit such couples to spend the night together in their homes, but only when they see that they have formed a loving relationship, feel ready for sex and understand how to use contraception responsibly. By accepting teen sexuality within these parameters, Dutch parents can stay involved, monitor relationships and urge proper contraceptive use.

This shift from a "marriage-only" to a "love-only" sexual ethic happened because parents, aided by honest and informative public conversations about sex, grappled with how to marry their aspirations -- about the children they wanted to raise and the relationships they wanted to foster -- to times that were changing. The result is an environment in which young people receive support from parents and other adults as they learn about relationships and wise sexual choices. "