Proponents of abstinence-until-marriage sex education may get a bit of an unwanted shock when they discover new research from psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin, which shows that romantic sexual relationships actually deter teens from acting out. That’s right — sexually active teens, far from being disobedient delinquents, are more likely to be well-behaved.
According to the study, which was published in the June issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, showed that teens who were in sexually active dating relationships were less likely to display antisocial behavior than other groups. Teens who were having sex in non-dating relationships (i.e., hooking up) were more likely to act out.
Paige Harden, one of the psychologists, explained that “these results may suggest that teens who spend more one-on-one time with their boyfriends or girlfriends, and less time with their friends, have fewer opportunities to get into trouble.”
The researchers looked at pairs of twins who differed in their sexual and dating experience in order to control for all background and genetic variations. They wanted, according to Harden, to examine the potential benefits of teen sexual activity, and to give teens’ sexual relationships some more context.
As Anna North observes on Jezebel, the results shouldn’t be that shocking. ”Of course, teens shouldn’t have sex before they feel ready,” she writes, “and they need to learn how to practice safer sex and seek help if a partner is pressuring or abusive. But it’s time to lay to rest the idea that having sex automatically turns teenagers into drug-snorting, knife-fighting hellions doomed to a life of crime.”
The theory that teens in relationships have less time to make trouble could also be supplemented by the idea that being in a committed sexual relationship actually benefits teenagers. Imagine if that’s a message teenagers heard more often — they might be (gasp!) a little better-behaved.
Photo from demibrooke via flickr.