Sexual feelings affect virtually all people from (at least) puberty onwards. In common with other aspects of development, the age at which puberty occurs varies widely from person to person. It is normal for the onset of puberty in different individuals to start as young as 8 or to be delayed until 16 or 17.
The age at which people first begin to act on their sexual interests varies widely and can be affected by a large range of factors including biological development, hormone levels, cultural factors, religious and moral views, upbringing, self-esteem, education and socio-economic status. This wide variation in age of first sexual experience is part of the normal spectrum of adolescent development.
Within our local health board area, it is thought that approximately 50% of all young people have experienced some form of sexual behaviour by the age of 16. It is estimated that there may be approximately 14,500 young people under the age of 16 who are sexually active within the NHSGGC area.
It is acknowledged that the circumstances in which many young people under the age of 16 have sex can be very poor involving a high degree of perceived pressure from partners or peers, the use of alcohol as a disinhibiter and some young people being in relationships with older and more "powerful" partners. Indeed, many young people report regretting their early sexual experiences. NHSGGC in no way condones sexual behaviour in young people under 16 and actively encourages that young people delay sex until they are physically and emotionally ready to handle the implications of sexual relationships in a positive way.
However, it's important that young people under the age of 16 are able to access sexual health services, including free condoms, in order to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.