Teenage sexual attitudes and behaviour in China: a literature review

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China is the most populated of any country in the world. Social norms and values pertaining to love and marriage have changed considerably since the launch of its open-door policy and economic reforms of the 1980s. Attitudes to sex have become more open, while the negative consequences of early sexual intercourse have become issues of health and social concern. The aim of this study is to provide an overview of the teenage sexual attitudes and behaviour in contemporary China. A literature review was conducted between 2000 and 2010, using both English (Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, ASSIA) and Chinese language databases (China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Wanfang database). Thirtysix studies were included and reviewed. It was found that young people reported poor sexual knowledge, especially in relation to reproductive matters and sexually transmitted infections. The media, such as television, magazines and the Internet, were seen as their main sources of information on sex. Despite the frequently reported liberal attitudes to sexual behaviour, only a small number of young people had already lost their virginity or been involved in pregnancies. Young men were more likely than young women to report having had sex, while respondents at vocational high schools were less likely to remain virgins than those at common ⁄ key high schools. Although the prevalence of sexual intercourse among Chinese teenagers was still lower than that reported in studies conducted in most western countries, the findings do reflect some changes in sexual values and behaviour of young people within the country. They also suggest the need to develop more comprehensive sex education programmes in co-operation with young people, schools, health organisations, families and communities and to make sexual and reproductive health services accessible to teenagers and unmarried young people throughout China
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561 - 582
Number of pages21
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number6
Early online date15 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • attitudes
  • China
  • literature review
  • sex education
  • sexual behaviour
  • teenagers


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