What Does the CDC Report Actually Say?

Posted on: 10/20/11 3:29 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m just going to think out loud here a little bit about this Youth Culture Window article I’m working on for next week. The topic? This new Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Survey of Family Growth report that claims… uh… what does it claim?

If you’ve picked up the paper in the last week or read any youth ministry or parenting blog, then you’d probably tell me, “Oh, it claims that sexual activity is down and contraception is up.”

That’s what the headlines say. But what does the actual report say?

I know… who has time to read the actual report? Right? Can’t we just trust The Washington Times and everyone else who is chiming in about this?

I’ve talked with you before in detail about being careful to avoid misinformation, instead, reading the actual numbers. Let me give you a sneak peak at what this brand new CDC report actually summarizes: (and I quote)

“Levels of sexual experience and contraceptive use have not changed significantly from 2002.”

I’m going to give you a homework assignment. (I’m sure you’ll do it.) I want you to look at two reports in the next four days before my Youth Culture Window article comes out. Don’t read any headlines, or blogs… but read this actual data:

1. The CDC does a national Youth Risk Behavior survey every two years tracking risk behaviors that teenagers engage in. Take a moment and look at this two page summary from the CDC that shows how those behaviors have changed from 1991 to 2009. Fascinating stuff (and a lot of good news).

2. Now take a look at the new new CDC National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) report that just came out and read their conclusions/summary. And if you really want to see something interesting, read the section in the “Introduction” about where they collected the pre-2002 data for males. Intriguing stuff.

If you do read that… then look at this chart on that NSFG report:

Just look at that chart for a second and let me ask you: Do any two columns stick out as akwardly/drastically different than the rest of the chart?  Now let me ask you. Would you find it peculiar, or is it just a coincidence, that the male 1988 and 1995 columns (the only two outrageously different columns) were the only two columns collected by a totally different survey, asking different kids?


Don’t worry. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I think that sexual activity is down… but two important facts:

1. I don’t think it’s new news.

2. I’m a little skeptical of the 1988 and 1995 male columns above.

Next week in the article I’ll share how both the CDC and myself don’t note any change with statistical significance since 2002. Better yet, I’m going to provide you with what myself and others (Melissa Nesdahl who speaks and writes with Pam Stenzel, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy ) theorize about:

1. Why the decline in teen sexual activity? (Because that is good news worth repeating)

2. How can we continue to help teens succeed?

More on this next week on our Youth Culture Window page.