Dating in middle school leads to bad things, UGA study finds

Alcohol, drug use soar, as do dropouts, research reveals

Monday, March 18, 2013 7:00 AM
Last updated 7:34 PM
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ATHENS, Ga. -- 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, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

“Romantic relationships are a hallmark of adolescence, but very few studies have examined how adolescents differ in the development of these relationships,” said Pamela Orpinas, study author and professor in the College of Public Health and head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior.

Orpinas followed a group of 624 students over a seven-year period from sixth to 12th grade. Each year, the group completed a survey indicating whether they had dated and reported the frequency of different behaviors, including the use of drugs and alcohol. Their teachers completed questionnaires about the students’ academic efforts. The Healthy Teens Longitudinal Study included schools from six school districts in Northeast Georgia. Investigators used two indicators of students’ school success: high school dropout rates and yearly teacher-rated study skills.

The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

“In our study, we found four distinct trajectories,” Orpinas said. “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. 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.”

Of the early daters, a large portion of the study group — 38 percent — reported dating at almost all measurement points throughout the study. The second at-risk segment, identified as “high middle school dating,” represented 22 percent of the sample. One hundred percent of these students dated in sixth grade.

“At all points in time, teachers rated the students who reported the lowest frequency of dating as having the best study skills and the students with the highest dating as having the worst study skills,” according to the journal article.

Study skills refer to behaviors that lead to academic success such as doing work for extra credit, being well organized, finishing homework, working hard and reading assigned chapters.

“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 said.

Children in these early dating groups also were twice as likely to use alcohol and drugs.

“Dating a classmate may have the same emotional complications of dating a co-worker,” Orpinas said. “When the couple splits, they have to continue to see each other in class and perhaps witness the ex-partner dating someone else. It is reasonable to think this scenario could be linked to depression and divert attention from studying.”

Authors indicated that more research is needed to identify characteristics that distinguish dating as a healthy developmental process from dating as part of a problem behavior syndrome.

Orpinas says this study suggests “dating should not be considered a rite of passage in middle school.”

Co-authors are Arthur M. Horne, Xiao Song, Patricia M. Reeves and Hsien-Lin Hsieh.

The journal article is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jora.12029/abstract.

The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

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Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 03/18/13 - 06:31 am
9
0
Observational Study Means Nothing

This study is one of those costly observational ones that proves absolutely nothing. What in the world do you expect to find? Families who allow their kids to “date” in middle school are more often going to have a myriad of problems and the kids will be doing poorly in school. The dating is only another symptom. What if it viewed those who drank alcohol as the causative factor? They are all symptoms. If it is being suggested that not allowing middle school dating will improve the factors noted, I suggest those researchers brush up on cause-effect and observational studies. See why Americans complain about wasted tax money?

Little Lamb
48010
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Little Lamb 03/18/13 - 07:20 am
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Hard-hitting Comment

Bravo, RM. These sociologists call these surveys research, yet they are nothing more than time wasters.

Does early dating cause early alcohol & drug use; or does early alcohol & drug use cause early dating? Doctor Orpinas doesn't say.

Does early dating cause bad study skills; or do bad study skills cause early dating? Doctor Orpinas doesn't say.

They have made it illegal for middle schoolers and high schoolers to smoke tobacco. They have made it illegal for middle schoolers and high schoolers to drink alcohol. Now they must make it illegal for middle schoolers and high schoolers to date. It's the necessary conclusion for Dr. Orpinas’ research.

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 03/18/13 - 07:58 am
5
0
LL, I mean isn't the study

LL, I mean isn't the study the silliest thing? I wish I could find out how many millions were spent on it. I went to their website and they have a slick booklet about the study, the website and this press release. Who in the world needs to read such a worthless "study"?

If they get more money while National Parks are made to close because of no funding, we have gone off the deep end.

seenitB4
93819
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seenitB4 03/18/13 - 08:05 am
5
0
Wasted money

We really have gone off the deep end..

Give me a million dollars to study why folks cut their toenails a certain way....some round --some square...GEEZ

We have lost our ever loving mind..LOST IT!

Little Lamb
48010
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Little Lamb 03/18/13 - 09:00 am
4
0
Cougar Dating

Hey, once this Pamela Orpinas milks that funding grant dry, maybe she can get a grant to study the ramifications of cougar dating. Surely she can prevent some injury there.

GiantsAllDay
10295
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GiantsAllDay 03/18/13 - 09:17 am
5
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Riverman, more often than

Riverman, more often than not, tells it like it is.

kmb413
533
Points
kmb413 03/18/13 - 12:20 pm
1
0
It is amazing that I made it

It is amazing that I made it through college according to this study. I "dated" if that is what you want to call puppy love in middle school. Wow, really?

realitycheck09
312
Points
realitycheck09 03/18/13 - 01:21 pm
0
1
Correlation does not equal Causation

Are they studying more and doing less drugs because they are not dating, or are they not getting dates because they are lame nerds? The world wants to know

aubaug
62
Points
aubaug 03/18/13 - 03:24 pm
2
0
Poor parenting!

Parents who possess poor parenting skills permit a child to date in middle school. Poor parenting causes a child to not develop good study habits, and engage in risky behavior. The old "date when you are 16 years old" needs to be enforced by today's parents.

tanbaby
1306
Points
tanbaby 03/18/13 - 04:08 pm
0
0
Dating???? these are 6th,
Unpublished

Dating???? these are 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.....ages what, maybe 12-14???? dating???

KSL
140441
Points
KSL 03/18/13 - 08:00 pm
0
2
Dating in middle school,

Dating in middle school, which was really junior high, 7th and 8th grade was quite common. Parents put on parties, well chaperoned by them and usually another couple (parents). It was music generally provided by a record player, but bigger parties may have had a band. There was no alcohol and since no one could drive, we were driven to and from by parents. We were not allowed to "date" someone older.

No alcohol drinking, no dropping out of school, none of the findings of this ridiculous study. It's all about parenting.

In the late 80's, my oldest son didn't date until the end of his Senior year football season. Yet he still had his Senior year baseball season in which they played for the state championship and he was offered a college baseball scolarship.

The not dating was his choice.

Second son did starting dating steady his Junior year. Sbe was a Senior. He was still serious enough he quarterbacked in a game for a state championship. Got an appointment to West Point generated by his football skills and additional qualifications.

KSL
140441
Points
KSL 03/18/13 - 07:52 pm
0
0
It is all about parenting,

It is all about parenting, but it takes a village of parents, not a government that enables and pays for irresponsible behavior from start to finish. Taxpayers, you get what you pay for. And we are totally doomed if the non taxpaying voters or the receivers of more than they pay become the majority.

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