Youth Services Law

Late Bloomers Do Fine

Group of teenagers at high school

It’s a strong stereotype that well-adjusted teenagers date and develop romantic relationships, and only socially maladjusted kids don’t do the same. A recent study of teenagers turns that stereotype on its head. It looked at the social development of young people who delayed dating until after high school. The researchers were surprised to discover that the teens were not maladjusted, but actually did better in some measures than their early-dating peers.

The study did a deep dive into another study that started in 2013, surveying almost 600 students as they progressed from sixth-grade through twelfth-grade. Both the students and their teachers filled out questionnaires that rated positive relationships, symptoms of depression, suicidal thoughts, social skills, and leadership skills. The non-dating students rated as well or higher than their peers on all of the measures. One of the most interesting findings was that, while students’ self-reports were similar in both groups, teachers rated the non-dating students significantly higher in social skills and leadership skills and significantly lower in depression.

It is always dangerous to read too much into a single study, but these findings are intriguing. The stereotypes of all teenagers dating except the social outcasts simply was not true in this group. There is not enough information to say that not dating causes better leadership and less depression, but it is reassuring evidence that young people who develop at their own pace likely will be just fine.

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