Analyzing school and 'hooking up'

LOS ANGELES — There's good news for parents who worry that their teenagers' sex lives are affecting their school performance: A new study has found that teens in committed relationships do no better or worse in school than those who don't have sex.

The same isn't true for teens who "hook up." Researchers found that those who have casual flings get lower grades and have more school-related problems compared with those who abstain.

It's not so much whether a teen has sex that determines academic success, the researchers say, but the type of sexual relationship they're in. Teens in serious relationships may find support.

"This should give some comfort to parents who may be concerned that their teenage son or daughter is dating," said sociologist Peggy Giordano of Bowling Green State University.
Teen sex is "not going to derail their educational trajectories," she said.

Last year, nearly half of high school students reported having sexual intercourse, according to a federal survey.

For the study, University of California, Davis sociologist Bill McCarthy and University of Minnesota sociologist Eric Grodsky analyzed surveys and transcripts from the largest national follow-up study of teens that began during in 1994.

The duo examined how teens' sexual behaviors affected their learning and controlled for factors that might influence their results.


  • Teens in serious relationships didn't differ from their abstinent peers in terms of grade-point average, how attached they are to school or college expectations. They were not more likely to have problems in school, be suspended or absent.
  • Compared with virgins, teens who have casual sex had lower GPAs, cared less about school and experienced more problems in school. For example, female teens who have casual sex had GPAs that were 0.16 points lower than abstinent teens. Male teens who have casual sex had GPAs that were 0.30 points lower than those who do not have sex. Teens who hook up were at greater risk of being suspended or expelled and had lower odds of going to college.
  • "Having sex outside of a romantic relationship may exacerbate the stress youths experience, contributing to problems in school," Grodsky said.
  • The Family Research Council said the study confirms what the social conservative group has advocated.
  • But the council said it "would not interpret less severe educational impacts on students involved in ‘committed' sexual relationships as a green light for comprehensive" sex education.


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