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The societal pressure for young teens to “couple up” along with sexual teasing from their peers makes it difficult for boys and girls to remain as close friends, a new study has found.
Dr. Emma Renold, of Cardiff University, led the research, which involved interviewing 125 young people aged 10 to 12.
The effort specifically focused on the challenges faced when young friends of the opposite genders are pressured “beyond friendship.”
“Children are actively learning every day about the contradictory and often confusing ways in which gender and sexuality shape who they are, how they feel in their bodies, what they can do, where they can go, how they relate to others and how others relate to them,” Renold said.
“Teens experience pressure to turn
non-romantic relationships into something else.”
Renold emphasizes the pressure these young teens experience to turn a non-romantic relationship into something else. She also points to the teasing factor, when some are stigmatized for having friends or interests of the opposite sex.
One participant in the research admitted to pretending his best friend was actually his cousin to avoid “heterosexual teasing.” According to the boy, he and his friend maintained the charade for more than a year.
The study also looked at some broader issues about how young people respond to ongoing sexual imagery on television or in music videos.
Some experts point to behavior like younger boys working out to improve their physique or young girls being eager to wear high heels.
Overall, girls were found more likely to be pressured into a relationship compared to boys. Even girls as young as 11 were found more likely to be pressured into a relationship.