Article Sep 09, 2019

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Teenagers who don't date have 'better social skills'

Adolescent students who don't date are less likely to be depressed and have better social skills than their dating counterparts.

Having romantic relationships during your teenage years has been thought to be an important way for adolescents to develop social skills and grow emotionally, but a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia has found that not dating can be an equally beneficial, or sometimes an even better choice for teens.

For the study, lead author Brooke Douglas and her team found that adolescents who were not dating during middle and high school had good social skills and low rates of depression.

"While the study refutes the notion of non-daters as social misfits, it also calls for health promotion interventions at schools and elsewhere to include non-dating as an option for normal, healthy development," said Douglas. "As public health professionals, we can do a better job of affirming that adolescents do have the individual freedom to choose whether they want to date or not, and that either option is acceptable and healthy."

The researchers analysed data from a study of adolescents from Northeast Georgia from sixth through 12th grade. Each spring, the students were asked about a range of emotional factors, including whether or not they had dated. Their teachers also reported on their behaviour.

The data showed that those who didn't date had similar or better interpersonal skills than those who did, while teachers rated the non-dating students significantly higher for social and leadership skills than their dating peers.

The pupils who didn't have romantic relationships were also less likely to be depressed, as teachers gave significantly lower scores on the depression scale for these participants, while the proportion of teenagers who self-reported being sad or hopeless was significantly lower within this group as well.

Full study results were published in The Journal of School Health.