Young teenagers who watch sex scenes in films are more likely to be sexually active and with more people from a younger age, according to new research.
Psychologists concluded that teenagers aged from 12-14 who watch more sex on screen in popular films are likely to have sexual relations with more people, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The study, based on nearly 700 popular films, found that watching sex scenes could "fundamentally influence" a teenager's personality.
The researchers, from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, concluded youngsters were more prone to take risks in their future relationships.
Dr Ross O'Hara, who led the study, said: ‘Adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners and are less likely to use condoms with casual sexual partners.
"This study, and its confluence with other work, strongly suggests that parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages."
The team, reporting in Psychological Science, studied 1,228 children aged between 12 and 14 and then analysed their sexual behaviour six years later.
Each teenager identified which popular films of differing classifications they had seen from a random list of 50.
Six years later they were asked how old they were when they became sexually active, how many partners they had, how risky their sexual behaviour was and whether they used condoms.
The findings provided a link between exposure to sex on screen and sexual behaviour. Participants also said they tried to mimic sex scenes they had seen on screen.
The researchers also assessed the sexual content of 684 of the biggest grossing films released between 1998 and 2004.
They found some of the most popular films from that time included scenes of a sexual nature, ranging from sexual scenes to heavy kissing.
These include Austin Powers, staring Mike Myers, Notting Hill, with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, American Beauty, staring Kevin Spacey and James Bond films such as The World is Not Enough, with Pierce Brosnan as 007.
More than a third of G-rated movies were found to contain "sexual content" compared to more than half of PG films and four in five R-rated movies.
Even children’s films were found to have sexual content such the G-rated the Princess Diaries (42 seconds).
Dr O'Hara said that the combination of sexually explicit films and adolescence had a profound impact on their behaviour.
He found that the “wild hormonal surges of adolescence” made cautious thinking amongst teenagers more difficult.
He said that while more than half of adolescents use movies and the media as their “greatest source of sexual information” many could not differentiate between what they saw on a screen and what they confronted in real life.
Dr O'Hara added: “These movies appear to fundamentally influence their personality through changes in sensation-seeking, which has far-reaching implications for all of their risk-taking behaviours.”
A previous survey of films from 1950 to 2006 found that 84 per cent of movies contain sexual content.
The influence of drinking and smoking in movies has been heavily researched, but studies on sex scenes in cinema are far scarcer, he added.
Dr O’Hara said: ‘Much research has shown that adolescents’ sexual attitudes and behaviours are influenced by media.
‘But the role of movies has been somewhat neglected, despite other findings that movies are more influential than TV or music.’
Given that for 57 per cent of American adolescents between the ages of 14 and 16, the media is their greatest source of sexual information, they often don’t differentiate between what they see on the screen and what they must confront in daily life, Dr O’Hara said.