Teens and Sex: Love Makes Teen Sex Less Academically Harmful
Good news for parents stressing over the secret sex lives of their teens. Turns out the (sexually active) kids are going to be alright on the academic front, as long as they are in a committed relationship, a new study finds.
In the covert parent/teen world of don't ask/don't tell, it is affirming to note that teens who have sex only with romantic partners aren't playing risky business with their report cards.
Unfortunately, their peers who are into hook-ups and "hanging out," (translated as friends with benefits), don't fare quite as well scholastically, coauthor of the study, Eric Grodsky, Ph.D. Sociology, University of Minnesota tells ParentDish.
The study: "Sex and School: Adolescent Sexual Intercourse and Education" was presented last month at the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
"Compared to abstinence, sexual intercourse in committed romantic relationships is often academically harmless, whereas in other types of relationships it is more detrimental," says Grodsky. "Females and males who have sex only with romantic partners are generally similar to abstainers on most of the education measures we examined."
Analyzing U.S. national education data, the researchers focused their findings on specific measures of education including: high school GPA; college aspiration, college expectations, problems in school, truancy, behavioral issues and drop-out rates.
Compared to abstainers, teens that only have casual sex are at greater risk for lower grades and problems in school, and are more likely to be expelled or suspended. They are also less likely to be attached to school and less likely to go to college, the researchers reported.
"Collectively, our results find that the detrimental outcomes commonly attributed to adolescent sexual intercourse occur mostly in non-romantic contexts," says Grodsky. He says the findings raise doubts about previous studies linking adolescent sex to poor academic performance and other negative behaviors. Other experts support the findings.
In fact, teens involved in committed sexual relationships not only fare better academically, they also have better relationships with their parents than their peers who are struggling to find connection, John G. Duffy, a clinical psychologist who specializes in teen and parental relationships, tells ParentDish.
"I find that many teens do not perform well academically until they are in a committed sexual relationship." says Duffy. "Teens often tend to steady themselves and find their footing socially, along with an improved sense of self-esteem and self-worth, through these types of relationships. To be honest, a deep, committed, sexual relationship often fosters maturity and positive self-regard in a way that even therapy cannot. This type of relationship allows many young people to recognize that they are lovable, and this is a prominent, often unspoken, concern for many teenagers. "
Duffy also says that teens involved in romantic relationships also tend to take their commitment much more seriously than their parents realize. And even though parents are concerned that these relationships soak up a lot of time, "the improvement in performance is, in my experience, undeniable," says Duffy.
As the research indicates, teens who are involved in multiple sexual relations don't reap the same positive benefits. "In these situations, sex often represents a way to fit in or belong, but typically elicit a drop in self-esteem," cautions Duffy. "These teens tend to withdraw as well, from academics, extracurricular activities, same-sex peer relationships, and family relationships."
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