Parents Should Play Role in Teen Romances, Study Says

Filed under: In The News, Social & Emotional Growth: Tweens, Research Reveals: Tweens, Social & Emotional Growth: Teens, Research Reveals: Teens

holding hands

Teens don't want parents to meddle in their romances, but they do want someone to talk to. Credit: P-J-TRASH, Flickr

New research indicates that puppy love between middle- and high-schoolers contributes to their overall development and that parents should be more involved in the romantic lives of their teens and tweens.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a study conducted in part by Stephanie Madsen, associate professor of psychology at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., reveals that teens whose parents talk about dating and offer advice tend to have better romantic relationships with less fighting and tension later in life.

The researchers looked at 225 young adults ages 22 to 29, and also discovered that children whose parents mind their own business when it comes to teen romance tend to have less fulfilling, more conflicted relationships that are less affectionate and supportive.

Madsen points out that the research doesn't give parents a free pass to meddle. Kids still don't want unsolicited advice. Teens like it best, she told the Journal, when mom or dad takes a "coaching" role, listening and offering advice only when asked. Don't say, "You have to break up with this person." Instead try explaining, "what you're seeing that seems unhealthy, or that worries you," Dr. Madsen says.

A second study published last year in Child Development showed that dating habits can have long-term effects on teens' emotional and social health, according to the Journal. Researchers looked at 78 middle-schoolers and rated the teens and their boyfriends and girlfriends on several depressive factors and peer reports of aggression, popularity and bullying.

Eleven months later, they repeated the ratings process, and found that kids who had poor ratings in the first round, but had healthy boyfriends or girlfriends, fared better in the second round thanks to the influence of their romantic partners. Researchers called the results "striking."

Do you meddle in your teen's romantic life, or do you take a less active role?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.