Modern urban life styles, including more years of schooling, career development, independent living, tolerance of diversity and greater degree of anonymity, have also contributed to the rise in premarital sex. In sum, based on the available evidence attempts to regulate the premarital sexual behavior of young men and women in hopes of returning to the abstinence-until-marriage era are unlikely to succeed, which will consequently necessitate adjusting to the realities of the sexual revolution that is continuing to spread worldwide. The migration to urban centershas rapidly transformed many historically rural developing countries, such as China, Indonesia, Iran and Turkey, to predominantly urban societies. The movement away from marriage to cohabitation , especially evident in developed western countries, has also contributed to the rise in premarital sex. Increased levels of cohabitation have also been reported among Latin American countries. Traditional attitudes and behavior of men and women with respect to premarital sex have changed relatively rapidly worldwide over the past half-century. In France, Germany and Spain, for example, less than 10 percent said that sex between unmarried adults is unacceptable. According to recent surveys, more than 90 percent of women aged 15 to 24 years know about at least one contraceptive and most are familiar with more than one.
The attitudes of most developed countries concerning premarital sex in the recent past were likely not dissimilar from the current views of the less developed countries. In addition, the percent of adolescent women using contraceptives has increased markedly in many countries over the past several decades. Increased levels of cohabitation have also been reported among Latin American countries. And in Japan, Russia and the United States the proportions of those who said premarital sex is morally unacceptable were less than one third. Even in countries where premarital sex is still a taboo, such as India , Indonesia and Iran , studies report its increasing prevalence. In some of those countries, including Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the majority of young couples were not married, but cohabiting. Delaying marriage to older ages increases the temporal opportunities for premarital sex. According to recent surveys, more than 90 percent of women aged 15 to 24 years know about at least one contraceptive and most are familiar with more than one. While governments, religious groups and social conservatives may continue to insist on abstinence until marriage, global trends of premarital sex over the past half-century suggest otherwise. However, a distinct split in attitudes concerning the acceptability of premarital sex was observed between developed and developing countries Figure 1. Even in traditional Asian societies, such as China , India , Iran and Japan, increasing numbers of young couples, especially in urban areas, are choosing to live together before deciding whether or not to marry. The gaps between ages at first sexual intercourse and first marriage have become substantial, especially for men Figure 3. For example, the gaps between median ages at first sexual intercourse and first marriage for men and women born between and are11 and 7 years in the United States and 8 and 5 years in Great Britain. In addition, young men and women are increasingly having sex prior to marriage as well as cohabiting before deciding whether to marry or not. The trend towards later marriage in many countries is another factor that has contributed to the rise in the prevalence of premarital sex. Large majorities of the populations in developed countries no longer view premarital sex as morally unacceptable. Among developed countries minorities considered sex between unmarried adults to be morally unacceptable. Survey data for many developed countries found that at the beginning of the 21st century more than two thirds of young people had premarital sex while still in their teens. The dichotomy between attitudes and behavior with respect to premarital sex observed in many developing countries poses serious challenges to traditional practices, religious values and cultural norms requiring abstinence until marriage. In developing countries, in contrast, large majorities continue to consider premarital sex morally unacceptable. Among the 28 members of OECD , for example, the average percent of young couples aged 20 to 34 years who were cohabiting in was more than 40 percent Figure 2. The globalization of mass media, most recently through the Internet, has also contributed to transforming traditional normative values regarding sexual behavior, including premarital sex. In France, Germany and Spain, for example, less than 10 percent said that sex between unmarried adults is unacceptable. Consequently, reported estimates of premarital sexare likely to underestimate actual levels. Among the explanations for the rapid rise of cohabitation is that it allows individuals to assess compatibility with a partner while keeping future options open.
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