Having sex while in a romantic relationship doesn't generally affect teens' grades in school, but casual sex might, a new study shows.
"Compared to abstinence, sexual intercourse in committed romantic relationships is often academically harmless, whereas in other types of relationships it is more detrimental," noted Bill McCarthy and Eric Grodsky, sociologists at the University of California, Davis and the University of Minnesota, respectively.
"Females and males who have sex only with romantic partners are generally similar to abstainers on most of the education measures we examined."
In their analysis of US national data, the researchers focused on specific measures of education: school attachment; high school GPA; college aspiration; college expectations; problems in school; truancy; and school suspensions/expulsions or dropping out.
Compared to abstainers, teens who only have casual sex are at greater risk for lower grades and problems in school, and are more likely to be expelled or suspended, less likely to be attached to school, and less likely to go to college.
But the school performance of teens who have sex only with romantic partners is not much different from that of abstainers.
"Collectively, our results find that the detrimental outcomes commonly attributed to adolescent sexual intercourse occur mostly in non-romantic contexts," the researchers said in a news release from the American Sociological Association. "These findings raise doubts about the veracity of sexual education programs that link adolescent sex to a plethora of negative outcomes." (August 2010)
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