Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teens "Hooking Up"

Keeping up with teenagers is no easy task. Just trying to decipher their language can be daunting! I have found it especially challenging to interpret how the teens I know define their relationships. When I ask if someone is dating, I might hear, “No Mom . . . they’re just talking.” I’m not sure teens today would understand me either if I were to pose such an old school nation as “going steady.”

In an attempt to better understand teenager sexual relationships, researchers from Bowling Green State University (Woohoo – GO FALCONS!) recently studied the phenomenon teens refer to as “hooking up.” Hooking up is the act of engaging in sexual activity with a partner (or partners) that the teen is not formally dating. According to research reported in the Journal of Adolescent Research, more than half of the sexually active teens the researchers studied had experienced this form of casual or “non-relationship” sex.

Of interest, the teens studied were not engaging in one-night stands or having sex with people they didn’t know. Instead, these teens were sexually involved with friends or ex-boyfriends or girlfriends or what some call “friends with benefits.” Additionally, about one third of these non-dating sexual partnerships are associated with hopes or expectations that the relationship will lead to a more conventional dating relationships.

The researchers in this study, like other family scholars and practitioners before them, expressed concerns that these teens may be taking risks that they are not even aware of. They also point out that what is not known is how these casual sexual relationships will influence the way these teens look at long-term relationships, specifically marriage, later in life.

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