Puppy years, mixed-gender groups predominate by mid-teens,

Puppy love and childhood crushes turn to teenage dating activities for at least half of all high school students.

With the onset of adolescence, teens spend less time with family and more time with peers. In the early teen years, mixed-gender groups predominate by mid-teens, up to two thirds of high school students report they have dated or are in a romantic relationship. Having a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school can have significant effects on a teenager’s social development and personal identity. On the other side there are also a healthy teen-dating relationships some of their characteristics are open communication and trust between partners of nearly the same age, says Sarah Sorenson in “Adolescent Romantic Relationships,” published online by ACT for Youth Center of Excellence.

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Experts disagree on the impact of having a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school, with some experts expressing concern for the need for personal identity before becoming involved in a dating relationship, while others believe that teen dating is important part of the process of establishing self-identity. Benefits of dating while in high school include development of social skills, interdependence, cooperation, empathy, and sensitivity. Also young people spend a great deal of time thinking about, talking about, and being in romantic relationships (Furman, 2002), yet adults typically dismiss adolescent dating relationships as superficial. Young people do not agree: half of all teens report having been in a dating relationship and nearly one-third of all teens said they have been in a serious relationship (Teenage Research Unlimited, 2006).

Although most adolescent relationships last for only a few weeks or months, these early relationships play a pivotal role in the lives of adolescents and are important to developing the capacity for long-term, committed relationships in adulthood. Romantic relationships become increasingly significant in the lives of young people as they move from early to late adolescence. Although dating has not yet begun, in early adolescence (ages 10-14) most youth are very preoccupied with romantic issues. Youth at this age spend significant amounts of time in mixed-gender groups that intensify their romantic interest and may eventually lead to romantic relationships (Connolly, Craig, Goldberg, ; Pepler, 2004). Romantic relationships are central to social life during middle to late adolescence (ages 15-19). Three-fourths of teens age 16-18 report having had a relationship, dated, or “hooked up” with someone and half of these youth have had a serious boyfriend or girlfriend (Teenage Research Unlimited, 2006).

Many youth in middle to late adolescence report spending more time with their romantic partner than with friends and family (Furman ; Schaffer, 2003).


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