Teens as Young as 14 Engaging in Group Sex, Study Finds

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The behavior came to light when 17 teens were diagnosed with syphilis, some girls as young as 13. In the end, more than 200 others were exposed and treated.

A 2010 New York Times story highlighted "rainbow parties," where girls with different lipstick colors give oral sex to boys -- a practice some experts at the time suggested were mythical.

"What this study does is to elevate the issue up out of the realm of urban legend and hopefully make at least federal funding agencies take notice," Rothman said.

Philadelphia, with the nation"s highest HIV infection among youths, just this year made free condoms available to 11-year-olds.

They cited a 2009 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey that found that 15 percent of children under 13 have had their first sexual encounter.

"We hear from teachers and school counselors and sometimes the principals that kids are cutting school in the afternoon and leaving early to go have orgies -- and that's in middle school," Gary Bell, executive director of Bebashi-Transition to Hope, a local nonprofit that works with teens, told ABCNews.com at the time.

Michael Nerney, a New York consultant who specializes in risky adolescent behavior, said the numbers may be small, but nonetheless an important observation given the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

"I"d be astonished if it didn"t exist," he said. "And it makes sense to me that it needs more attention."

It is also not surprising that these teens tends to be younger, when their brains are not fully formed, he said.

"Their physical maturation runs four to eight years ahead of their social, emotional and relationship maturity," Nerney said.

At early adolescence risk-taking is also more exciting and "emotionally rewarding," without consideration for the consequences, he said.

This age group is also shaped by cultural influences like television shows about single teen mothers and multiple affairs.

"It's sexual roulette," he said. "They hook up with this one and then that one."

Lonely teens are also more vulnerable to the "nagging pressure" of their peers.

As for Rothman, she said she was confident of the authenticity of the teens' self-reporting.

"Some girls under-report and others over-report," she said. "One of the things that give me confidence about the accuracy of the reporting was that it was done in a health care setting. We were asking in a doctor's office and not in a middle school English class.

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