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Teen Sex Doesnít Equal Bad Grades

Teen Sex Doesnít Equal Bad Grades

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.

The Downside

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.

Too Simplistic

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. 


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photo credit: Strawberry Banana Smoothie by Courtney Carmody

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1:27PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Thank you for info.

1:27PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Thank you for info.

11:34AM PDT on Sep 1, 2010

Thanks to Nicole C for sharing the link - it was a chewy read for me, but definitely informative. The author, Heather Corinna, framed it well as part of a larger, continuing discussion. Thanks for sharing that info!

1:31PM PDT on Aug 31, 2010

I think that maybe certain circumstances the cart is put before the horse. Is the casual or hook up sex leading to poor grades or are the poor grades leading to the hook ups as a consolation prize of not being the smart kids in school? Where are the parents, and what are they teaching the kids? I imagine that these same kids that are getting poor grades and hooking up are also the same ones who have AODA problems on top of truancy. It's time to bring in the discipline.

12:44PM PDT on Aug 24, 2010

I know lots of people who had great grades and maintained casual sex during the high school period. There's no logic in this kind of affirmations.

10:02PM PDT on Aug 21, 2010

i honestly think casual sex is a symptom, rather then the cause of school troubles for teens, although it may be the case for some people. it is very easy to point to one thing like the media or sex or violence to every kid's problem, but each kid has a different brain and life experiences that could contribute to problems that they face, and oversimplfying it is only going to make the problem worse.

4:46PM PDT on Aug 21, 2010

Hester Prynne got an A for it. Sorry. I couldn't help myself. Most of our stereotypes are screwy--good looking kids tend to get better grades than nerdy types, kids who sign agreements to remain virgins rarely do and are more likely to engage in unprotected sex than other kids, and church-going people tend to get more divorces than the unchurched (and fool around more, etc). Basically, everything you knew is wrong. Don't believe anything you're told. Live your life in a way that would kill anyone else. It's worked for me so far.

12:37PM PDT on Aug 20, 2010

I just read an article talking about the media portraying this study in an inaccurate manor, including this article. Nowhere in the study does it say "casual", "committed", "hook-up", or "long-term". Also the differences in romantic and non-romantic sex is waaaay smaller than anyone is portraying. If you care to read about the actual study and not the lazy media spin on it, here is a great article:

6:34PM PDT on Aug 19, 2010

Never thought about the effect of sex on grades, but I suppose random hookups aren't exactly compatible with a studious lifestyle.

5:24PM PDT on Aug 19, 2010

I cannot believe people held the notion that teenage sex lead to worse school performance... Although of course it makes sense that casual sex means lower grades, since it might mean the teenager is also struggling with his/her complicated issues... Great article, thanks for posting it!

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