Tuesday, April 9, 2013

News U Can Use: "Middle School Dating Linked to Bad Grades?"

"Study shows long-term perils of middle school dating"

By: Matthew Simmons (for: http://www.redandblack.com/)

Studies show that students who enter the dating world at a young age may have to face the consequences down the road.

These results came from a study conducted by five University of Georgia staff members and administrators, which revealed that students who date in middle school are more likely to suffer academically later in life.
The five co-authors published a seven-year study, named the Healthy Teens Longitudinal Study, which looked into the lives of adolescents in middle and high school. The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Pamela Orpinas, the main author of the study, professor in the College of Public Health and head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, said the study’s purpose was to research how adolescents develop and what causes differences in development.

Orpinas and the other researchers followed over 600 students from six school districts in northeast Georgia over a seven-year period, starting with the students’ entry into the sixth grade and their graduation of the 12th grade. Students were asked to fill out surveys based on their social experiences — including dating or even the use of drugs or alcohol — while teachers filled out evaluations of students’ performances in academic areas.

After the research ended, Orpinas and her co-authors discovered that, based on the data they collected, the students that dated in middle school were four times more likely to drop out of school and also had a higher chance of taking part in underage drinking and substance abuse. The teacher evaluations of these students were also significantly worse, Orpinas said.

Orpinas said that she believes there are several explanations for this correlation. One reason she gave was that early dating could be a pattern of high-risk behavior. She also compared dating a classmate to dating a co-worker and said that breaking up and being forced to be in the same class would affect study habits and concentration.

“Kids start dating each other and when they stop they have to see each other everyday and that can lead to depression.” Orpinas said.

In an email to The Red & Black, Patricia M. Reeves, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at UGA and co-author in the study, said Opinas was an internationally recognized expert on this particular subject.

But Orpinas said that this type of studying is actually similar to earlier studies that were previously conducted. These also discovered that earlier dating lead to poorer academic performance in students’ school careers.

Research Professor of Counseling and Human Development and former UGA Dean of Education Arthur Horne, another co-author on the study, said that these types of studies are uncommon due to the amount of time that the researcher must devote. The original goal of the study, Horne said, was to determine what led some students to more violent behaviors in school.

Horne said that this type of study could be beneficial for schools because it alerts people to what other factors lead to success in school. Horne also said that these types of studies could be conducted to examine other adolescent issues, such as obesity.

Orpinas said that not all students that date in middle school will have worse academic careers. But she still urges parents to talk to their children about the subject of dating.

“Dating doesn’t have to be a rite of passage. Every person has their own timing.” Orpinas said.