They’re still kids.” While the academic studies aren’t in yet, she says she has seen a lot more seventh and eighth graders in her practice who are suffering depressed reactions or engaging in dangerous risk taking after their romantic and sexual lives, and breakups, were exposed on the Internet.“With Romeo and Juliet, one town was difficult,” she says.Throughout the study, students who dated more were rated by teachers as having worse study skills.
Those who dated the most were shooting toward disaster: they were four times more likely to drop out of high school and reported twice as much substance abuse as those who were dating less.
“Among adults or older adolescents or young adults, dating is actually a really good thing,” explains Orpinas, “because you’re more stable, happier, and less likely to do drugs.” But the earlier you start, the more likely the opposite results.
But unlike substance abuse and depression—the two other horsemen of a teenage apocalypse—dating and grades are easier to spot and easier for parents to talk to their kids about.
“Parents need to be able to assess in middle school what type of risk taker their adolescent or young eighth grader is,” she says.
If your middle school child wants to start dating, you might think twice.