chapter  9
12 Pages

Adolescent Sexuality: Current Directions in Research, Health, and Risk Reduction

ByMelanie J. Zimmer-Gembeck, Lucia F. O’Sullivan, Shawna Mastro, and Gillian Hewitt-Stubbs

Sexuality is often defined to include sexual behavior, the development of sexual preferences, the understanding of the self as a sexual being, sexual decision-making, and agency (Vasilenko, Lefkowitz, & Welsh, 2014). It also incorporates the understanding of others’ sexual desires, and how to approach and manage intimacy with another person. Although sexual development and sexuality are founded in biology (Harden, 2014; Rodgers & Rowe, 1993), they also evolve from new life experiences that become more prevalent in adolescence, including the tendency to form close, dyadic relationships with peers of the same and other sex, and increased autonomy to spend more time with peers without the presence or supervision of parents or other adults (Impett & Tolman, 2006; Savin-Williams & Diamond, 2004; Zimmer-Gembeck, Ducat,& Collins, 2011; Zimmer-Gembeck, 2002). Thus, it is not surprising that all aspects of sexuality develop rapidly, expand with sexual expression and depth of experience during adolescence (and early adulthood), and become highly salient features of adolescents’ and early adults’ daily lives.