Large-scale study describes sexuality of Dutch youth

18 September 2015

Young people view less pornography than parents think. Teenage girls think that all boys visit porn sites and therefore have unrealistic expectations of them. Teenagers think more about being in love and relationships than about sexual contact. Less-educated young people begin earlier with sex. These are a few conclusions from the long-term study project ‘Studies on Trajectories of Adolescent Relationships and Sexuality’ (STARS), the outcomes of which were presented today during the final symposium in Utrecht.

Photo: Hollandse Hoogte

The aim of the project STARS is to find a way of optimally guiding adolescents towards a healthy and positive sexual development. Researchers are trying to answer questions about how the relational and sexual development of young people develops during adolescence. Why is the one child dating already, whereas another child has never fallen in love? And do boys and girls exhibit differences in this respect? Project STARS has revealed that puberty, personality, upbringing, contemporaries and Internet use all influence this process. This knowledge is important for parents and teachers. They need to start at an early age with sexual education and continually adjust this as the young person develops. Project leader Maja Deković: ‘Do not simply say: use a condom during sex and then shock them with scary slides of STDs, but also devote attention to how young people experience relationships and sex. And be aware of external social influences such as friends and the media.’

In-depth studies

To answer these questions fifteen scientists from Utrecht University and the University of Groningen did research for a period of four years within the project STARS. The group investigated was made up almost 1300 boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 19 years with different levels of education. By following these young people over time, project STARS was the first large-scale study in the Netherlands to investigate relational and sexual development.

Maja Deković: ‘Most previous studies into sexuality among teenagers were mainly descriptive in nature with little attention for the context. This changed with project STARS. If you want to gain a proper understanding of the defining factors concerning relational and sexual development then you need to do research over a period of several years in which the social emotional development and environmental factors are given a place.’

Source: NWO