This Salon article on the Dutch approach to teen sex reports on a study examining Dutch attitudes towards teenage sleepovers in their parents’ home, finding that parents generally express a desire to be involved in their teens’ lives as they grow up and become romantically and sexually involved. Additionally, access to contraceptives and other sexual healthcare is widely available, which, along with a greater acceptance of sexuality as a normal part of life rather than something to be stigmatized as dirty or shameful, have shaped a very different cultural atmosphere.
The evidence is striking: birth rates among American teens (ages 15-19) are eight times as high as those of Dutch teens. STI rates are also lower among Dutch adolescents.
I would be curious to see more research about correlations between attitudes regarding premarital sex and sexual activities; it seems that one major cultural difference between America and the Netherlands is the almost fanatic insistence of abstinence-only sex education here in the U.S., tied in with conservative religious doctrines about the shamefulness of sex outside heterosexual, monogamous marriage (and as I understand it, some religious beliefs brand all sex as sinful–it’s just less bad when practiced within marriage for reproductive purposes).
Obviously not all parents will go as far as condoning teenagers having sleepovers with their boyfriend or girlfriend in the home; my parents, for all that they are liberal in many respects and encouraged healthy attitudes toward sex as with all aspects of life, believed that having sleepovers in the home was inappropriate. But if parents can at least have frank discussions with their teens (and even their younger children) about sexual health, instead of veiling sex in a fog of shame, sin, and secrecy, then perhaps Americans could begin to emulate the Dutch in terms of lower numbers of teen pregnancy and STI transmission.