The Data on Teen Dating

The Data on Teen Dating

Did you know there is a “typical” pattern related to teens and dating?  I didn’t, but I found out about it in a study done to find out the effects of teens starting to date earlier than the typical starting date.  Generally, interest in the opposite sex usually begins with puberty and follows a pattern.  Teens gradually begin to interact together casually, then move to group dating, and finally, in the late teens, move to exclusive partnerships.  You may have done it differently, but that’s the basis of a Canadian study.

This study of almost 700 teens, who were followed over a period of 8 years, was interested in the effect the age students started dating would have on other behaviors.  The average age of the students at the beginning of the study was 11.8 years.  They were given a series of questionnaires assessing the participants for variables like personalty traits, shyness, depression, and delinquent behaviors.

They identified three groups:  Those who started dating early at the age of 11.6 years, the “on-time” daters started dating at the age of 12.9 years, and the “late bloomers” who started dating at the age of 14.9 years.  Over half of the students started “on time.”  The “on-time” daters still seem awfully young to me, but that was the way the study was set up.

Those who started dating early reported twice as many acts of delinquent behavior, such as lying, cheating, picking fights, truancy, running away, unsafe sexual activity, and alcohol use.  The researchers felt that the early group wasn’t really prepared to handle the typical problems of relationships, and didn’t have peer support in their behaviors.  The “late-bloomers” did fine.

It’s an interesting study, reported last December in the Journal of Adolescence.

Question:  What do you think is the right age for kids to start dating?

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3 Responses to The Data on Teen Dating

  1. Dave Fish (St. Andrew's choir) says:

    Dave: Not sure I “fit” into the study. My First Love was Joanne Koski, a pretty little blonde from a Finnish family. Her mother and mine were close friends through grade school, high school and beyond, in Ashtabula, Ohio. In 1930 new mothers stayed in a hospital for ten days. Joanne’s mother entered the hospital on or about June 13, 1930, when Joanne was born, and they went home on June 23. My mother moved into the same hospital and bed with me on June 23, 1930. I cannot remember when Joanne and I started noticing and liking each other. Mom and my sister and I moved to Pasadena, California, in 1945 when Joanne and I were 15. I hope her life turned out as well as mine . . .

  2. Mrs. Leia Mealey says:

    Dear Dr. Stoop,
    We have a boy and a girl both adopted. 3rd. and 4th. grade. We started them both out in Christian school but when that got too expensive, we switched them to public. Needless to say we have been very surprised by what they have come home with from being around their peers. The age for dating is when they have completed their schooling, 18 or 17. Before that, in our home, they can enjoy time with their boy friend or girl friend at our home and with our family. Younger dating children who are unsupervised usually find trouble. Thank you for your ministry, L. M.

  3. Interesting article. It makes sense. I am sharing this with the parents over at my parenting ministry facebook page.

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