Perhaps no single event during the adolescent years has as dramatic or widespread effects as the realization of sexuality. The lives of both boys and girls become wrapped in this new dimension. Adolescence is a time of sexual exploration and experimentation, of sexual fantasies and sexual realities, of incorporating sexuality into one's identity. These processes determine adolescents' comfort with their own emerging sexuality as well as with that of others. Adolescents are also beginning to be involved in intimate relationships, a context in which sexual activity often occurs.
In recent decades, many of the milestones by which adulthood is defined and measured—full-time employment, economic independence, domestic partnership/marriage, and childbearing—are attained at later ages in people's lives than they were in earlier generations, while puberty begins at earlier ages. Thus, adolescents face many years between the onset of puberty, fertility, and the natural intensification of sexual feelings and the achievement of committed relationships and economic independence. As a result, young people have sexual intercourse earlier in life, and there are greater percentages of adolescents who are sexually experimenting at every age level, a greater number of acts of premarital intercourse, and a greater number of sexual partners before marriage.
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