Issues about teenagers becoming sexually active take on unique concerns when it comes to East Asian adolescents in British Columbia.
A new study by University of British Columbia researchers, using data from the 2008 BC Adolescent Health Survey and published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, found that less than 10 percent of B.C. East Asian teenagers in grades 7 to 12 were sexually active. This was lower than the provincial rate of 22 percent.
However, approximately 70 percent of those who were engaging in sexual activity reported high-risk behaviour, such as early sexual initiation, multiple lifetime sexual partners, two or more partners over a year, substance use before intercourse, or not using a condom.
Previous studies had found that higher rates of sexual activity among East Asian teenagers coincided with greater exposure to North American culture, including being born in the U.S. or speaking English at home.
Other cited studies have revealed ethno-cultural differences in contraceptive behaviour, such as oral contraceptives being less popular in East Asian countries. Canadian-born sexually experienced girls were more likely than immigrant peers, particularly those who spoke a heritage language at home, to have used birth control pills.
The study notes that in Asian cultures, open discussion about sex has traditionally been considered inappropriate and sexual intercourse during adolescence or before marriage has been deemed unacceptable.
The two most common reasons given for abstaining from sex were not feeling ready and waiting to meet the right person.
The study concludes that the high-risk sexual practices of those students who did engage in sexual intercourse indicates the need for sexual health education and services for East Asian adolescents.