Births to teenagers have decreased from 3,087 in 2001 to 1,041 in 2017; a decline of 66 per cent over the 16-year period. This equates to a decrease in the teenage birth rate from 20 per 1,000 of women aged 15-19 in population in Ireland in 2001 to 6.9 per 1,000 in 2017.
Ms Helen Deely, SHCPP Programme Lead, said: “We welcome the figures released today. There has been a significant shift in society in recent years. More teenagers than in the past are receiving Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in schools and youth-work settings, and the majority of teenagers who are sexually active report ‘always’ using contraception. Several studies show that most teenagers in Ireland are aged between 17 and 19 the first time they have sex.”
She continued: “The SHCPP is committed to implementing the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015-2020 with statutory and non-statutory partners to improve sexual health and wellbeing and reduce negative sexual health outcomes. The strategy sets out that sexual health education of children and young people is the primary responsibility of parents and should be supported through RSE in primary and post-primary schools and by youth organisations and NGOs.”
Ms Deely continued: “While the reduction in today’s figures are welcome, there is more work to be done to ensure that young people have the information they need. We believe that parents’ role in sexuality education needs to be strengthened and more parents supported to provide relationships and sexuality education to their children throughout their lives. We know that parents can find talking to their children about relationships, sexuality and growing up challenging; but parents and guardians have a huge influence on their teenagers and it is important that teenagers know the facts before they decide to have sex for the first time.”
According to Irish research, parents who discuss relationships and sexuality and growing up openly with their pre-teen children said they found it easier to communicate with them when they became teenagers. Irish research also finds that those who said that it was easy to talk to their parents about sexual health were more likely to use contraception when having sex for the first time, compared with those who did not find it easy.
The HSE SHCPP recommends that parents talk to their children about their developing sexuality from the time they are very young and has developed a number of resources to support parents to communicate with their children about this topic at different ages.