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?