By Kim Bielenberg
This week, a survey by UNICEF offered an insight into the sex lives of Irish adolescents in 2011. The report found that girls are more likely than boys to have lost their virginity by their mid-teens; 22pc of Irish girls who have lost their virginity had sex at the age of 15 or younger, with the figure for boys at 19pc.
Psychologist Allison Keating says: "For a significant minority of teenagers, often it is too much too young. There is a danger of a loss of innocence.
"We are seeing an increasing tendency for girls to go out with older boys."
There are marked regional variations in the ages when teenagers first engage in sexual activity. The UNICEF survey shows Dubliners are much more likely to have had their first encounter at a young age. Three out of 10 of Dublin teenagers who have lost their virginity did so at the age of 15 or younger.