A SHOCKING new study has found that as a many as one in five sexually active Irish schoolboys, had their first sexual experience before the age of 14.
And the survey of 16,000 Irish school children has that alcohol and drugs usage is partially blamed for early sexual activity.
The Health Behaviour in School Aged Children study surveyed school children between the ages of nine and 18.
Out of 4,088 teenagers between the ages of 15 to 18 asked about their sexual behaviour more than a quarter said they were sexually active.
Worryingly, 22pc of boys and 13pc of girls who were sexually active revealed they had begun having sex before the age of 14.
The study also found that while the vast majority confirmed they used some form of contraception, 10pc of boys and 6pc of girls used no reliable method at all.
The study found that alcohol, smoking and cannabis usage were all factors which played a part in school children's sexual activity.
It was carried out in 2010 as part of a 43-country Health Behaviour in School Aged Children study, carried out every four years. It will be carried out once again later this year.
A smaller pilot study was carried out on 233 schools last year and will be rolled out extensively this year as part of the overall study.
It questioned whether students felt they were ready for sex at the time of their first experience. Two thirds of school children said they were happy with their age when they had sex while one third wished they had waited or were not sure.
The pilot study also looked at substance use prior to sexual encounters, and discovered that over 53pc has taken no drugs or alcohol while 37pc had and almost 10pc did not remember.
It also queried the age of school children's sexual partners with the majority in the 15 to 16-year-old age bracket.
Honor Young, a senior researcher from the Department of Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI, Galway said the survey was the first of its kind in Ireland.
"The current situation in Ireland is that there is very limited data on adolescent sexual health behaviours. There's a lot of data looking retrospectively but the actual fact is that we don't ask young people about their sexual behaviours," she said.
Ms Young said this had now been acknowledged in the study.
Speaking at a Youth, Alcohol and Sexual Behaviour Seminar at NUI, Galway, Ms Young said she now hopes the findings will be included in the Government's sexual health strategy.