Hollywood producers and script-writers, take note: Teens who had not dated during middle and high school were generally happier, less depressed, and dealt better with a variety of social situations compared to those who had dated, a study said.
The study by researchers from the University of Georgia, published in the Journal of School Health, found that not dating can be just as, if not more, beneficial for teens than entering into early romantic relationships, according to a Sept 9 report by StudyFinds.org.
“The majority of teens have had some type of romantic experience by 15 to 17 years of age, or middle adolescence,” the study’s lead author, Brooke Douglas, said in a press release.
“This high frequency has led some researchers to suggest that dating during teenage years is a normative behavior. That is, adolescents who have a romantic relationship are therefore considered ‘on time’ in their psychological development.”
Douglas continued: “Does this mean that teens that don’t date are maladjusted in some way? That they are social misfits? Few studies had examined the characteristics of youth who do not date during the teenage years, and we decided we wanted to learn more.”
For the study, Douglas and her team collected data from a group of Northeast Georgia students as they progressed from sixth to 12th grade.
“Data collection began in 2013. Each spring, students were asked about their dating habits, as well a number of other emotional and social factors such as positive relationships with friends, home life, behavior at school, depression symptoms, and suicidal thoughts. Each student’s teachers were also surveyed, and asked about the child’s social skills, leadership characteristics, and depression symptoms,” the StudyFinds.org report said.
The researchers found that students who were not dating had either similar, or better, interpersonal skills than their dating classmates. Teachers rated the non-dating students significantly higher than their romance-seeking classmates in terms of social and leadership skills.
Regarding depression, teachers also rated non-dating students as less depressed. Additionally, far fewer abstinent students reported feeling depressed or hopeless regularly than students who were known to date.
“In summary, we found that non-dating students are doing well and are simply following a different and healthy developmental trajectory than their dating peers,” said study co-author Pamela Orpinas.
Douglas and her team believe that schools should do more to remind students that choosing not to date is just as healthy and normal as dating.
“As public health professionals, we can do a better job of affirming that adolescents do have the individual freedom to choose whether they want to date or not, and that either option is acceptable and healthy,” Douglas said.