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Middle School Dating Might Hurt Academics, Study Finds

Update Date: Mar 15, 2013 02:00 PM EDT

According to a new study, when adolescents start to date might greatly affect their studying skills and academic capabilities later on in life. Researchers from the University of Georgia found that dating during middle school can lead to higher rates of high school dropouts and higher chances for drug and alcohol abuse. Although this study reported these trends, the researchers note that they do not occur in all adolescents and that dating during this period of one's life is not always detrimental.

The head researcher, Pamela Orpinas, a professor in the College of Public Health and Head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior followed the lifestyles and habits of 624 students from sixth grade to twelfth grade. The seven-year study called "The Healthy Teens Longitudinal Study" evaluated students from six different school districts in Georgia. The middle school students were given a survey every year regarding their dating history as well as behavioral tendencies, including drug and alcohol usage. The students' teachers were also required to complete questionnaires regarding the students' academic efforts. The researchers measured the students' levels of success based on high school dropout rates and study skills. Study skills were determined by teachers who rated the students based on extra credit assignments, organization, completing homework, and displaying hard work in the classroom.

Based from these factors, the researchers found four distinct groups, which included students who did not date, students who rarely dated, students that dated less in middle school but more in high school, and the students who dated consistently since the sixth grade. They found that the first two groups had better studying skills and overall academic performances than the students who dated consistently throughout middle school to high school. They also found that the students who dated more frequently, roughly 38 percent, also had an increased chance of getting involved with drugs and alcohol.

"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 stated. She also stated that drug and alcohol use can be attributed to coping mechanisms for these young adults who experience breakups and heartaches.

Despite this trend, the researchers stress that more research will need to be done to explain how dating influences adolescents and whether or not dating should be considered bad.

The study was published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

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