Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology

pp 40-47

Adolescent Sexuality

  • Sara I. McClellandAffiliated withDepartments of Psychology and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan Email author 
  • , Deborah L. TolmanAffiliated withHunter College School of Social Work and the Graduate Center, City University of New York


The field of adolescent sexuality has often been marked by debates about how much, at what age, and with what restrictions young people should learn about and engage in sexual activity. Research in the area of adolescent sexuality has aimed, in large part, to explain the prevalence, outcomes, contexts, and predictors of sexual activity in teens. Focus has often been on sexual risk and heterosexual intercourse, specifically the age of first intercourse, rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancy, as well as other associated behaviors such as alcohol and drug use (Zimmer-Gembeck & Helfand, 2008). Over the last 30 years, however, there has been a increasing interest in examining sexuality as a normative developmental experience which includes not only questions regarding sexual activity but further elaboration of girls’ and boys’ sexuality – including gender and sexual identity development, body image, how sexuality is experienced, how it ...

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