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Dating is an important social step among teenagers, one that some are eager to try as soon as possible while others voluntarily arrive late to the party.
But can dating too early have a detrimental effect on teens later on? That’s the concern behind a new study published in the Journal of Adolescence.
Researchers from Toronto’s York University looked at data from 698 area students gathered between 1996 and 2003.
They found “early starters,” those who begin dating between 10 and 12, later exhibit twice as many delinquent acts compared to those who start on time or late.
These acts included truancy, running away from home, lying and picking fights.
“Those who begin dating between 10 and
12 exhibit twice as many delinquent acts.”
The study warns that starting romantic or intimate relationships too early can cause social development issues, leaving teens out of step with their peers and without a support structure.
Late bloomers were not found to display similar social or emotional difficulties despite also being off track from their peer group.
They were found to accelerate through their social development once they did start dating, quickly moving from casual group dates to serious, if not exclusive, relationships.
Roughly half of the students surveyed were found to start dating on time. A quarter were found to start late, and 20 percent were deemed early starters.
Among the participants, the average age at which early starters began dating was 11.6 years. The average age for those deemed on time was 12.9 years. Late bloomers were identified at 14.9 years.
Late-blooming boys in the study were found to start dating about a year behind late-blooming girls, who on average start at around 15.5 years.