An overview of the Sexual Behaviour of Adolescents and Young People in Contemporary China

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Traditional Chinese sexual values and morality are mainly based on the Confucian and Taoist traditions, which overwhelmingly stress the reproductive function of sex and its role in cementing family and societal structures. In recent years, attitudes towards sex, love and marriage have changed dramatically since China’s open-door policy and the economic reforms of the 1980s. Sexual attitudes become more open, while the negative consequences of early sexual initiation increasingly become issues of social and health concern. In this paper, the author provides an overview of the current literature relating to the sexual behaviour of adolescents and young people in contemporary China and suggests ways forward to positively promote the sexual health of its population. The results show that teenage sex and premarital sex are no longer disapproved of by the young. Some young people lost their virginity while still at high school and the rate of sexual initiation was generally higher among those who had left school and those at university. The take up of contraceptives was found to be low and multiple sexual partners, casual sex, pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and sexual abuse were also reported. These rapid changes in sexual values and behaviour call for the introduction of comprehensive sex education programmes and their associated services which are inclusive, accessible and available to all adolescents and unmarried young people in China.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397 - 403
Number of pages6
JournalAustralasian Medical Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • adolescents
  • china
  • sexual values
  • sexual behaviour
  • young people


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