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Middle School daters more likely to drop out; Use drugs

Posted by on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:06 AM
  • 21 Replies

 

It's Best to Wait: Middle School Daters More Likely to Dropout, Use Drugs

Ah, young love.

Tweens are practically bursting with feelings of possibility and new-found joy when they discover that "special someone." Then again, when you're fresh out of puberty, love is awkward and can be heartbreaking.

New research from the University of Georgia (UGA) paints a grim picture of middle school daters-they are four times more likely to drop out of school, twice as likely to drink and smoke marijuana, and tend have worse teacher-reported study habits.

After all, Juliet was only 13 when she started dating Romeo, and we all know how that turned out. 

Studying the Habits of Middle School Daters

Pamela Orpinas, lead study author and head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior at UGA, says that while romantic relationships may seem like the hallmark of adolescence, they don't always yield the best results.

Orpinas monitored 624 students as they moved from sixth grade to twelfth grade in six different school districts across Georgia. Every year, the students completed a questionnaire about their personal lives while their teachers evaluated each student's academic performance.

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Teachers rated the students' study skills based on a variety of factors, including doing extra credit work, coming to class organized, completing homework, and doing assigned reading. 

About 38 percent of the students who dated in middle school reported dating someone at almost all times during the seven-year study period. Twenty-two percent of teens in the study began dating someone in the sixth grade.

"At all points in time, teachers rated the students who reported the lowest frequency of dating as having the best study skills and the students with the highest dating as having the worst study skills," according to the article, published last week in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

The Perils of Dating Young

Adolescence is when children first begin to push boundaries on the way to adulthood. While they may think they know what's best for them, they sometimes lack the foresight to see the consequences of their actions. 

Study participants who didn't date had better overall academic performance, while those who dated earlier in middle school were twice as likely to begin using alcohol and drugs in high school, the researchers said.

"A likely explanation for the worse educational performance of early daters is that these adolescents start dating early as part of an overall pattern of high-risk behaviors," Orpinas said in a press release.

Other amplifying factors include the emotional difficulties teens often face in middle and high school: bullying, depression, and anxiety. All of these have been linked to higher rates of smoking, drinking, and drug use.

Add these factors together-plus the fluctuating hormones that come with tweendom-and a relationship can be tough to handle without the right coping strategies. A nasty breakup could send a teen looking for ways to alleviate the stress.

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A recent University of Toronto study showed that children of divorced parents are 13 times more likely to start smoking cigarettes, and researchers there suggested that the calming effect of cigarettes helped the teens cope. 

"Dating a classmate may have the same emotional complications as dating a co-worker," Orpinas said. "When the couple splits, they have to continue to see each other in class and perhaps witness the ex-partner dating someone else. It is reasonable to think this scenario could be linked to depression and divert attention from studying."

Her findings were enough for Orpinas to warn that, "dating should not be considered a rite of passage in middle school." 

The Georgia researchers say more study is required to tease out the characteristics of healthy young dating verses problem behavior. And that's where parents step in.

How Parents Can Help

Parents are a teen's role primary model for how relationships work. Since many teens are ill-prepared to deal with the realities of dating, parents can model good behavior for them.

More importantly, parents should talk to their children about dating, along with the birds and the bees. This includes helping their children form realistic expectations for relationships and assuring them that not being in a relationship isn't the end of the world.

After all, there's plenty of time (and opportunity) to date in college

by on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:06 AM
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Replies (1-10):
ChancesMommy07
by Silver Member on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:10 AM
2 moms liked this

I guess I got lucky then. I started dating the man I'm now married to when I was 14 and he was 15. We've been together ever since (almost 16 years). We're both college grads and neither one of us ever did drugs. But my mom would have killed me if I hadn't done well in school. I was allowed to date and have fun but school work came first.

sweet-a-kins
by Emerald Member on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:15 AM
1 mom liked this

 I started dating my husband when we were both 15, we've been married for 14 years and together 22 years as of 3/26.

No premarital babies, no droping out and not a druggie, neither one of us  :)

 

Quoting ChancesMommy07:

I guess I got lucky then. I started dating the man I'm now married to when I was 14 and he was 15. We've been together ever since (almost 16 years). We're both college grads and neither one of us ever did drugs. But my mom would have killed me if I hadn't done well in school. I was allowed to date and have fun but school work came first.

 

terpmama
by Bronze Member on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:29 AM

I met my hubby in college but I started dating at 13-14 and he and I are both still friends (we dated 2 years after being friends first). Neither dropped out, did drugs or really got in any trouble (sure the occasional grounding for typical mouthy teen crap but nothing serious). We are both college grads with careers and are happy healthy and well adjusted. 

SunshneDaydream
by Silver Member on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:29 AM
1 mom liked this

Interesting.  I started "dating" (if you could call it that) around 6th grade and I definitely started drinking and smoking cigarettes and pot in high school.  I was a good student, but not an over-achiever.  I did NOT drop out though, and went to college.  I also had lots of extra-curriculars and a good homelife.  I think there are too many factors involved that probably weren't evaluated. 

Radarma
by "OneDar" on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:29 AM

 

Quoting sweet-a-kins:

 I started dating my husband when we were both 15, we've been married for 14 years and together 22 years as of 3/26.

No premarital babies, no droping out and not a druggie, neither one of us  :)

 

Quoting ChancesMommy07:

I guess I got lucky then. I started dating the man I'm now married to when I was 14 and he was 15. We've been together ever since (almost 16 years). We're both college grads and neither one of us ever did drugs. But my mom would have killed me if I hadn't done well in school. I was allowed to date and have fun but school work came first.

 

 The study refers to sixth grade as the start spot, which is age 11.

World of difference between 11 and 15, yeah?

Radarma
by "OneDar" on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:31 AM

 I had my first kiss at age 11, his name was Jake, in the orchard behind the school....memories...like the corners of my mind. lolol

FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:37 AM
2 moms liked this

This is what I have always said to my girls.

I am keeping this article.

Dating that young is not necessary.  I get the whole thing, I can certainly remember being that young and being 'in love' all the time.  

However, as a parent, I would be irresponsible in my duties if I allowed any of my girls to have dated, or to date, at such a young age.

My youngest is 13.  If she likes a boy I am going to make sure I know who this boy is and find out about him and his family.  I expect them to do the same.  Dating isn't allowed and I have no problem with making sure the kid and his parents know this.  There are boundaries and if any one crosses them, I am going to make sure the lines are drawn again.

When my youngest is 16, depending on all other factors, she may be able to date.  

Dating should never be put above school.  Not by the parents, at least.  I know what it is like being  young and all that jazz.  It is up to the parents to do their best in any given situation.

Radarma
by "OneDar" on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:57 AM

 I just printed this too, for my 6th grade daughter...thanks for posting it.

(but then what about the idea that the quickest way to make your kid WANT to do something is to tell them NOT to?)

This parent gig is tricky.

Woodbabe
by Woodie on Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:59 AM

What do they consider dating? Meeting a group of co-ed friends at the mall to see a movie or single, one on one going out? Does this include relationships that only exist with hand holding in the hallways and lunch together at school with endless phone calls hiding from mom?

Instead of the cause, this seems more a symptom of all of this article mushed together....parents who aren't as involved for whatever reason. Most people I know that are involved parents aren't going to be encouraging their middle school kids to seriously date. I'm assuming these kid's parents don't REALLY know what they're doing....and that bleeds over into smoking and school work and all the rest.

 Sexy If its unladylike, fattening or fun, I'm in!
  

lga1965
by Ruby Member on Mar. 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM

 As a parent, I found that I didn't have to start out by "forbidding dating", I just observed and saw that my kids and their friends were interested in just having friends, no steady dates. Maybe this is a regional issue? I would estimate that almost all of them were on the honor roll, played school sports, had close families and had no reason to want a steady. (Or, had no reason  to sneak out and have steady boyfriends and girls friends and drink and smoke.) Most of the time, my kids and their friends were in our family room watching movies eating popcorn and drinking sodas ( this was in the 1980's ), or out in the driveway shooting baskets.

Unfortunately, lately, with only a few exceptions, kids seem to want to grow up too fast and don't feel close to their parents so they spend too much time doing all the wrong things , away from home.

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