Dating in middle school leads to higher dropout, drug-use rates

March 15, 2013
Pamela Orpinas

Students who date in middle school have significantly worse study skills, are four times more likely to drop out of school and report twice as much alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use than their single classmates, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

" are a hallmark of adolescence, but very few studies have examined how adolescents differ in the development of these relationships," said Pamela Orpinas, study author and professor in the College of Public Health and head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior.

Orpinas followed a group of 624 students over a seven-year period from sixth to 12th grade. Each year, the group completed a survey indicating whether they had dated and reported the frequency of different behaviors, including the use of drugs and alcohol. Their teachers completed questionnaires about the students' academic efforts. The Healthy Teens included schools from six school districts in northeast Georgia. Investigators used two indicators of students' school success: high school dropout rates and yearly teacher-rated study skills. The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

"In our study, we found four distinct trajectories," Orpinas said. "Some students never or hardly ever reported dating from middle to high school, and these students had consistently the best study skills according to their teachers. Other students dated infrequently in middle school but increased the frequency of dating in . We also saw a large number of students who reported dating since sixth grade."

Of the early daters, a large portion of the study group—38 percent—reported dating at almost all measurement points throughout the study. The second at-risk segment, identified as "high middle school dating," represented 22 percent of the sample. One hundred percent of these students dated in 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 with the highest dating as having the worst study skills," according to the journal article.

Study skills refer to behaviors that lead to academic success such as doing work for extra credit, being well organized, finishing homework, working hard and reading assigned chapters.

"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.

Children in these early dating groups were also twice as likely to use alcohol and drugs.

"Dating a classmate may have the same emotional complications of 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."

Authors indicated that more research is needed to identify characteristics that distinguish dating as a healthy developmental process from dating as part of a problem behavior syndrome.

Orpinas says this study suggests, " should not be considered a rite of passage in ."

Explore further: One-third of dating teens report violence in their relationships

More information: The journal article is available at onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10 … /jora.12029/abstract

Related Stories

One-third of dating teens report violence in their relationships

January 21, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Nearly a third of those dating in middle and high school report abusive relationships, according to a new study from the University of Georgia. The dating violence, which the researchers first measured ...

Dating violence in teen years can have lasting impact

December 10, 2012
(HealthDay)—Teenagers who experience dating violence could be more likely to get involved in violent relationships and have health problems as young adults, a new study suggests.

U.S. high schools lax in preventing dating abuse: study

July 9, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Although dating violence is a recognized problem for U.S. teens, a majority of high school counselors say their school provides no training or guidelines for dealing with abusive romantic relationships, a ...

Recommended for you

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

Scientists develop new supplement that can repair, rejuvenate muscles in older adults

July 18, 2017
Whey protein supplements aren't just for gym buffs according to new research from McMaster university. When taken on a regular basis, a combination of these and other ingredients in a ready-to-drink formula have been found ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kochevnik
5 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2013
Dating is the new gateway drug in USA police state

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.