Moreover, relationships appear to be relatively short, lasting on average about 12 months Carver et al. Relationship churning refers to partnerships in which individuals break up and get back together, sometimes dating or having sexual relationships with other partners between the breakups. Adolescents have not only dating relationships but also sexual relationships. These estimates, however, do not indicate whether the sexual activity occurs within a dating or a casual sexual relationship, or both, and whether relationships are sexually exclusive.
Measures of these experiences in the literature focus on first sex with a casual partner, as well as ever having a causal sexual experience. Thus, a sizeable minority of teens experienced first sexual intercourse outside a dating relationship. Instead, many of these sexual experiences are with someone the teenager dated in the past or considered a friend. The assessment of casual sex becomes more complicated when there is overlap across dating and sexual categories, for example, adolescents may be involved with casual sexual partners in tandem with dating partners.
In summary, the contemporary adolescent life course often involves sexual activity outside of the traditional dating context, though not necessarily with a stranger or hookup. The fluidity of adolescent relationships, however, challenges traditional perspectives on the meaning and measurement of dating and sexual relationships. Relationship churning and sex outside the confines of dating relationships, two indicators typically not examined in the literatures on dating relationships or sexual activity, may affect how adolescents subsequently manage their intimate relationships and may influence well-being.
Dating may increase antisocial outcomes including juvenile delinquency, substance use, truancy Cui et al. Much of the literature on teen sexual activity also focuses on problematic outcomes. Similar to studies on dating, research demonstrates that teen sexual activity is often associated with depressive symptoms e. Limited studies focus specifically on the well-being implications of casual sex partnerships or sex that occurs outside the scope of a dating relationship.
From a risk perspective, a pattern of sexual activity outside of dating relationships may reflect a dyadic attachment style that lacks intimacy and commitment.
Teen dating violence - Wikipedia
Results of studies examining the association between number of casual sex partners and psychological well-being, however, are mixed. Lyons and colleagues find that a significant share of men and women liked and enjoyed their casual sex relationships. These findings counter the literature emphasizing the risky consequences of casual sex.
We concur with Fortenberry who argues that researchers tend to problematize all adolescent sexual activity. Perhaps some kinds of relationships are riskier for well-being, so it may be useful to consider a broader range of intimate relationships rather than focusing solely on dating or sexual activity. Moreover, unlike many other adolescent risk behaviors e. Thus, we argue that research should be more specific about the types of dating and sexual relationships that may influence well-being.
We investigate whether a range of dating and sexual experiences during adolescence influence young adult outcomes. We assess whether the numbers of dating partners, sexual partners dating and casual , casual sexual partners, as well as relationship churning, and sexual nonexclusivity among 18—year-olds in influence five indicators of well-being measured five years later in The TARS provides a unique perspective by focusing on dating and sexual relationships during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The respondents did not need to attend classes to be in the original study and were interviewed outside of the school setting.
The advantage of this approach is that it provides a more representative sample of adolescents, not just those who regularly attended school. We followed the initial set of respondents over the course of five interviews for the next 10 years. This allows us to access a full cumulative set of adolescent sexual and relational experiences from early adolescence ages 12—13 to late adolescence ages 18— The well-being indicators are from the fifth interview , when respondents were ages 22— We include six indicators of dating and sexual experiences during adolescence.
Number of dating partners refers to the total number of relationships, adjusting for relationships that lasted across multiple interviews. Number of sex partners draws on the item: In your lifetime, how many sex partners have you had?
Estimating the Prevalence of Adolescents’ Dating and Sexual Relationships
For our analyses assessing the impact of relationship churning , we classified individuals in four different categories. We code respondents into the first category, Churning, if they broke up and got back together with their current or most recent partner or have had sex with their ex-dating partner.
- Teen dating violence;
- dating mentally ill person?
The second category, Stably together, includes respondents in a current relationship and who never broke up with this partner. The third category, Stably apart, includes respondents who report on a prior relationship in which they only broke up once and did not get back together. The fourth category, Nondaters, references respondents who did not have a recent or current dating partner. Analyses included three dummy coded variables Churning, Stably apart, and Nondaters , with Stably together as the reference group. Sexual nonexclusivity includes three categories. The second category, Sexual exclusive, indicates being in a sexually exclusive relationships and neither partner had sex with someone else during the relationship.
Dummy codes for Sexually nonexclusive and Nondaters were entered in analyses, with Sexually exclusive as the reference group. We present a series of bivariate models demonstrating the association between the well-being indicators and each dating and sexual activity measure separately. We estimate ordinary least squares regression models for continuous indicators of well-being depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and relationship satisfaction and logistic regression models for dichotomous well-being indicators intimate partner violence.
The average number of dating partners is about 4 with a range of 0—9 partners. The average number of sex partners is slightly more than 3 with a range from 0— Among sexually active 18—year-olds, the mean number of partners is nearly 5. Thus, we confirm that dating among American teens is nearly ubiquitous, but teens differ in their numbers of dating partners.
- age dating laws in maryland?
The majority of 18—year-olds have some sexual experience, but there is a vast range in numbers of sexual partners. Dating and sexual activity, however, frequently co-occur. Yet the number of sexual partners that individuals were dating dating sexual partners is nearly two, indicating that sex activity does not occur in every dating relationship. Casual sex is also common. About half of sexually active teens report having had sex with individuals with whom they were not dating. The mean number of casual sex partners is 1.
In the subset reporting casual sexual activity, the average number of casual sex partners is 3. Unless noted in the text the significant bivariate associations persist with the inclusion of sociodemographic characteristics and outcome variables assessed at the first interview. Late adolescent experience with sexual nonexclusivity, however, is associated significantly with higher levels of depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem in early adulthood.
Relationship predictors are from Wave 4 ages 18—19 and outcomes are from Wave 5 ages 22— Further investigation with multivariate logistic regression models, including sociodemographic characteristics and grade point average, finds that the number of dating and sexual partners during adolescence is not significantly associated with gainful activity at ages 22—23 results not shown. Nearly one quarter of the sample reports experiences with intimate partner violence with their current or recent partner at ages 22— At the bivariate level, numbers of dating and sexual partners casual and dating during adolescence are positively associated with the odds of early adult intimate partner violence.
In multiple regression models, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and teen dating violence, the number of dating partners, and the number of sexual dating partners remain significant predictors of higher odds of young adult intimate partner violence results not shown. These results suggest that greater dating experience is a risk factor for intimate partner violence, but involvement in casual sexual relationships is not a risk factor.
Additionally, at the bivariate level, relationship churning and sexual nonexclusivity are not significantly associated with intimate partner violence. Finally, the number of sexual partners, specifically dating sexual partners, relationship churning, and sexual nonexclusivity are negatively associated with relationship satisfaction in early adulthood.
Multivariate models not shown indicate that these associations persist even after the inclusion of demographic control variables. Consistent with prior research, we found that the majority of adolescents report dating and sexual experience at some point during adolescence.
Teen Dating Violence
The wide variation in the number of partners indicates a range of dating and sexual experiences. We also demonstrate that adolescent dating and sexual relationships are fluid. Common experiences during adolescence, for example, include having several dating sexual partners, having casual sex, experiencing relationship churning, and having a dating relationship that is not sexually exclusive. Our work does not provide a comprehensive assessment of the full range of adolescent dating and sexual experiences, but does introduce several ways of reconceptualizing adolescent dating and sexual relationships.
Thus, these patterns of dating and sexual experiences suggest that high levels of instability and variation in types of relationships should be acknowledged and further integrated in future studies of the implications of dating and sexual experiences for adolescents as well as later in the life course.
We build on prior work that uses a risk framework by examining the number of dating and sexual partners as risks for poorer well-being among young adults. The longitudinal framework of the current study enabled us to examine specific consequences of variations in the nature of adolescent dating and sexual experiences for young adult well-being.
The traditional indicators of number of dating partners and number of sexual partners were not significantly associated with depressive symptoms or self-esteem, which is at odds with a risk framework. Yet the number of sexual partners is associated with lower levels of relationship satisfaction as well as higher odds of intimate partner violence among young adults. The more nuanced indicators show that associations between sexual partnerships and well-being are not limited only to casual sexual partners but also relate to dating sexual partners. Notably, relationship churning and sexual nonexclusivity resulted in lower levels of young adult relationship satisfaction.
It is possible that certain individuals are prone to relationship strain, indicated here by churning and nonexclusivity in adolescence, and lower relationship satisfaction in early adulthood. It is also possible that experiencing relationship strain during adolescence carries over into adult dating relationships.
Finally, although the number of sexual partners is not associated significantly with psychological well-being, sexual nonexclusivity is associated with greater depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem in adulthood. It appears that the type rather than the number of dating or sexual relationships has a lasting influence on psychological well-being. These findings suggest that there is a need for a risk framework that accounts for the nature as well as the number of dating and sexual relationship experiences.
In our analyses, informed by a risk framework, we focus on the negative processes tied to young adult relationships. However, a distinct framework requiring different indicators is that youthful dating and sexual experiences may be positive, or at minimum, normative steps in the developmental process. Adolescent dating relationships thus may provide numerous opportunities to learn about positive relationship dynamics as well as challenges in sustaining relationships such as negotiating roles, disagreements, breakups, conflict, and jealousy.
Our work cannot empirically evaluate this notion of skill-building, but leads us to speculate about the potential resilience provided by prior relationship experiences. Perhaps longitudinal data that include indicators of relationship competence or direct questions about lessons learned from earlier dating experiences might be fruitful. Most likely countervailing forces are operating where prior relationships may present some risk for healthy adult relationships and at the same time may offer valuable lessons carried forward into adulthood. Much prior research imposes an adulthood lens regarding relationships that focuses on duration and stability.
Our findings showcase that this frame cannot be simply supplanted onto adolescents. We find that the fluidity of adolescent relationships is not well captured by the high number of dating or sexual partners because of the frequency of relationship churning. Consistent with the notion that adolescence is a period of exploration, we also find that it is common to break up and get back together. Thus, the concept of relationship duration—relying on a conceptualization of relationships as clearly dichotomized: Yet to assume that relationship churning occurs only in adolescence would be shortsighted.
A challenge remains to assess the meaning of relationship churning to adolescents.