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Teens Who Don’t Date May Be More Well-Adjusted & Less Depressed, New Study Finds

If you find yourself worried about your teen's development, especially if they haven't brought home a girlfriend, boyfriend or significant other yet, there's no need to worry! While many teens often feel the pressure to date while in high school, a new study is showing that teens who don't date are actually more well-adjusted and have better social skills than their peers who do date.

Although it's often been thought that teens who date must have better social skills than their peers who don't, a new study conducted by the University of Georgia and published in The Journal of School Health found that the opposite can actually be true. The study found that those who didn't date had higher social and leadership skills and were less depressed.

“The majority of teens have had some type of romantic experience by 15 to 17 years of age or middle adolescence,” Brooke Douglas, the lead author of the study, stated. “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.”

Portrait Of High School Students Giving Each Other Piggybacks College Buildings
Credit: iStock

Because of that Douglas was interested in finding out if not dating had implications for teens. “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,” she said.

To conduct their study Douglas and study co-author Pamela Orpinas looked at 594 10th graders from data collected by Orpinas in a 2013 study. It looked at surveys completed by the students as well as reports collected from teachers. The students who didn't date were found to have great social skills and a low occurrence of depression — even better than their peers who were dating.

The results of the study should reassure both parents and teens who are feeling a little left out, or possibly behind in development. “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 Orpinas.

“While the study refutes the notion of non-daters as social misfits, it also calls for health promotion interventions at schools and elsewhere to include non-dating as an option for normal, healthy development,” Douglas added.

She also reaffirmed that teens should be told that choosing to date or not to date are both completely acceptable options. "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," she said.

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