Although it probably isn’t the news some adults want to hear, researchers now say that teenagers who engage in sex are not any more likely to perform poorly in school than their virgin peers. In fact, teens in committed relationships are just as likely to earn good grades and go on to attend college, as their non-dating classmates.
Not All Sex is Created Equal
The certain-to-be-controversial study did find, however, that teens who engaged in casual sex were more likely to receive poor grades, have behavioral problems and even drop out of school.
The new study, which was presented recently at a meeting of the American Sociological Association in Atlanta, challenges the widespread and long-held notion that sexual active teenagers make poor students.
Good Intimate Relationships are Beneficial
Like the adults they are soon to become, it was discovered that a stable, intimate relationship helps teens navigate the ups and downs of life, while “hook-ups” tended to undermine them emotionally and in terms of productivity.
Long-term Research Finds Unsurprising Positives
The study’s results are based on the follow-up of a 1994-95 study that utilized surveys and analyzed school transcripts. It is one of the largest studies ever conducted to see how teen’s sexuality affected their learning.
Some highlights of the researchers discoveries include:
- Teens in serious relationships have comparable grade-point averages and interest in school and college aspirations, as those who were not in sexual relationships.
- Teens in serious relationships were not more likely to have problems in school, be suspended or absent.
These positive results mean it might be time to revamp sex education to stress the importance of relationships and to tout its benefits.
But the research also reaffirmed the negative effects of casual sex.
- Teens engaged in casual sex had lower GPA’s, less interest in school and got into more trouble.
- They had a higher suspension rate and were less likely to go to college than their virgin peers, or those who were in serious relationships.
- Teens who “hooked up” also had higher truancy and dropout rates.
These findings speak loudly to the very real and damaging affect casual sexual intimacy can have on young people during what is already a chaotic, emotional and hormonal period of their lives.
The data points to the need of adults to take a more realistic stance on teenage sexuality. Finding a middle ground between resigned acceptance and abstinence education would be a good place to start.
Your Thoughts and Stories
Let us know what you think about this new study, sex education and the idea of promoting monogamous relationships to high schoolers.
photo credit: Strawberry Banana Smoothie by Courtney Carmody