Here’s why kids should wait to date.
By Alexandra Churchill — Last updated on Nov 10, 2023
Photo: Joshua Resnick | Canva / Ron Lach | Pexels
Remember in middle school when you had a crush on the cute boy in your class? You snuck notes during homeroom and made out behind the bleachers, and it all seemed like perfectly innocent puppy love, remember?
Well, dating in middle school may have just been the thing that screwed up your life.
Middle school kids with boyfriends more likely to grow up as addicts.
According to research, “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.”
Pamela Orpinas, a professor from the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia, followed the lives of over 600 students from sixth grade up to high school graduation. Each school year, the students answered a questionnaire about their dating experiences and researchers tracked how their experience (or lack thereof) corresponded with their academic performance and use of illicit substances or alcohol.
“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,” Orpinas says. “Other students dated infrequently in middle school, but increased the frequency of dating in high school. We also saw a large number of students who reported dating since sixth grade.”
Children in these early dating groups were twice as likely to use alcohol and illicit substances.
Orpinas said, “Dating a classmate may have the same emotional complications as dating a co-worker. When the couple splits, they have to continue to see each other in class and perhaps witness the ex-partner dating someone else. It’s reasonable to think this scenario could be linked to depression and divert attention from studying.”
Based on her study, Orpinas suggests that dating shouldn’t be considered a rite of passage in middle school.
Apparently, I beat the odds. I met my fiancé in middle school. That would make him the only serious boyfriend I’ve ever had in my whole life. We both went on to graduate high school and then college without a whole lot of drama.
So, does this mean that our middle school relationships spell out doom for our futures?
I don’t know if I’m buying into this. After all, I turned out alright. No criminal charges on my record, no plummeting GPA, and no rehab history. It’s unfair to say that the downward spiral of one person (because according to these findings, you apparently turn out to be a hot mess) can be solely backtracked to a moment in his/her dating history.
Isn’t middle school dating something most of us do? And isn’t it true that the majority of us turn out okay?
For most grade school kids, “dating” really means trading Disney Princess/Spiderman classroom cards on Valentine’s Day, supervised play dates, and if things get really risqué (insert eye-roll here) “getting married” on the playground. Is that really so harmful?
Either way, I guess I’m glad that I’m on the better side of this statistic.
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Alexandra Churchill is a digital editor who currently works for Martha Stewart Living. Her work has been featured on numerous sites including The Huffington Post, Her Campus, USA TODAY College, and Northshore and Ocean Home magazines.