Teenagers who avoid dating aren’t necessarily socially awkward, experts have found.
In fact, they sometimes have better mental health than their romantically-linked peers and are equally well-adjusted.
That’s the conclusion reached by researchers at the University of Georgia, who studied nearly six-hundred tenth grade students.
As a result, experts say schools should promote being single as a viable option of healthy development among adolescents.
The researchers identified four distinct dating trajectories from 6th to 12th grade: low, increasing, high middle school and frequent.
Investigators compared the four dating groups using teacher ratings and student questionnaires.
The data found that adolescents who were not in a romantic relationship had good social skills and low depression, and fared better or equal to peers who dated.
‘In the end, school health educators, mental health professionals, and teachers should affirm social norms that support adolescents’ individual freedom to decide whether to date or not, indicating that both are acceptable and healthy options,’ said lead author Brooke Douglas, of the University of Georgia.
The study was published in the Journal of School Health.
Meanwhile, a separate study from February 2019 found that a woman’s willingness to engage in casual sex at college depends on how romantically active they were at school.
Dr Laurie Hawkins from the University of Essex conducted 45 interviews with undergraduate women at a large public Western United States.
They were asked to give their views on sexuality in adolescence as well as their sexual and romantic relationships in college.
Classified into five categories – religious, relationship seekers, high school partiers, late bloomers and career women – the late bloomers were the most frivolous with sexual partners, suggesting they were making up for lost time.
Meanwhile, women who were sexually experienced in high school were less concerned about casual encounters.
Dr Hawkins told MailOnline: ‘The late bloomers were an interesting group. They pretty much ignored sex but once they did engage in sex/hookup culture at university, they jumped into it more than others and were among the most sexually active of all the groups.
‘However, since they had fairly negative feelings about the appropriateness of sex, they needed a way to justify their own behaviour so they engaged in slut shaming of other women in order to make themselves feel better about their own behaviour – they might be having sex, but others were doing it more and therefore their sexual behaviour was better.
‘I think they talked about it more as it was a way to engage in social comparison so they could bolster their feelings about their own participation in casual sex culture.’