More than 40% of teen-agers who attend conservative churches have had sexual intercourse by the age of 18 while one-third decline to brand sex outside marriage as morally unacceptable, according to a study released this week in Washington.
The "Teen Sex Survey in the Evangelical Church" found that 43% of the 1,438 "churched youth" who responded last summer to a confidential, church-conducted questionnaire had sexual intercourse by age 18 while 35% of the 17-year-olds and 26% of the 16-year-olds said they had had intercourse.
By comparison, a Louis Harris and Associates poll in December, 1986, found that 57% of the nation's 17-year-olds are sexually experienced while 46% of the 16-year-olds and 29% of the 15-year-olds said they had had sexual intercourse.
Asked if sexual intercourse by unmarried couples was ever morally acceptable, 65% said no, the study reported. But 8% of the respondents said intercourse was always morally acceptable between unmarried but willing people, while 17% said it was sometimes acceptable and 11% were not sure. The survey had a 3% margin of error, said Fran Griffin, a spokeswoman for the evangelical study commissioned by the Josh McDowell Ministry of Dallas.