Many adults remember having their first boyfriend or girlfriend in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade. Some consider it a normal step for kids entering adolescence — a rite of passage like acne or being embarrassed by your parents — but it may be time to reconsider.
Turns out, puppy love may not be quite as harmless as it seems. According to research, dating in middle school is tied to poor study habits and even dropping out as well as behaviors such as drinking alcohol and doing drugs.
What is “dating” in middle school, anyway?
Compared to adolescents who waited or dated early and then reversed their course in high school, early daters reported twice as much drug, tobacco, and alcohol use and dropped out of school at four times the rate. Pamela Orpinas, development researcher at the University of Georgia, made this startling discovery over the course of a seven-year longitudinal study where she followed more than kids in Georgia from sixth to twelfth grade.
But it does, Orpinas says. The big questions, then, are what really constitutes dating and when should you start letting your child date? For instance, what about so-called relationships that exist solely via text message — a trend dubbed D8-ing in a Wall Street Journal story.
Middle-schoolers dating? really?
Are these situations, where kids text incessantly but barely utter a word to one another, count? The only real way to find out what counts?
From toas Orpinas was collecting the survey data and spotting the tie between early dating and poor study skills, she admits she forbade her daughter now in college from dating till she turned She likens it to the emotional fallout that often comes from adults dating coworkers.
Feona Sharhran Huff, mom of a middle school girl, was disturbed when a boy asked her daughter out.
Pro #1 of dating in middle school:
Yet simply banning dating till later may be neither simple nor effective. With girls reaching puberty earlier, is it wrong to force kids to ignore their biological development?
There is a silver lining here: at a certain age, for certain kids, good, strong dating relationships are really positive. Specifically, studies show that older kids with good grades tend to seek out partners with similar academic standing — and those students tend to continue to do well.
Spend time talking on the phone
After spending years evaluating this research and using it to inform her own parenting, Orpinas offers this advice. Encourage them to make friends and get to know each other, she says, rather than date. Choosing the wrong college can be bad for mental health. Please enter a valid address.
Con #1 of dating in middle school:
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Dating is part of growing up, but early dating can be risky. Share on Pinterest.
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