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Member Research and Reports

UGA: Study Indicates Teens Who Don’t Date Less Depressed, Have Better Social Skills

Dating, especially during the teenage years, is thought to be an important way for young people to build self-identity, develop social skills, learn about other people, and grow emotionally.

Yet new research from the University of Georgia has found that not dating can be an equally beneficial choice for teens. And in some ways, these teens fared even better.

The study, published online in The Journal of School Health, found that adolescents who were not in romantic relationships during middle and high school had good social skills and low depression, and fared better or equal to peers who dated.

“The majority of teens have had some type of romantic experience by 15 to 17 years of age, or middle adolescence,” said Ms. Brooke Douglas, a doctoral student in health promotion at the University of Georgia College of Public Health and the study’s lead author.

“This high frequency has led some researchers to suggest that dating during teenage years is a normative behavior. That is, adolescents who have a romantic relationship are therefore considered ‘on time’ in their psychological development.”

If dating was considered normal and essential for a teen’s individual development and well-being, Ms. Douglas began to wonder what this suggested about adolescents who chose not to date.

“Does this mean that teens that don’t date are maladjusted in some way? That they are social misfits? Few studies had examined the characteristics of youth who do not date during the teenage years, and we decided we wanted to learn more,” she said.

To do this, Ms. Douglas and study co-author Dr. Pamela Orpinas examined whether 10th grade students who reported no or very infrequent dating over a seven-year period differed on emotional and social skills from their more frequently dating peers.

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