August 19, 2010
Teenage Sex, Casual Hookups & School Performance
If you just read the profit-driven headlines that combine the sensationalism of sex with the precariousness of the teenage years, you might believe that there is an indisputable causal link between teens being sexually active and earning lower grades.
Not so says the latest research. Those teens who have sex in the context of “romantic” relationships achieve similar academic outcomes as those who abstain from sex altogether. The researchers suggest that romantic partners may play a supportive role and help ease stress and anxiety. Bearing in mind that definitions of self-reported sexual abstinence can be highly subjective, the results can be viewed as encouraging in that they reject the inaccurate notion that teenage sex is inherently linked to poor academic performance.
However encouraging these results may be, they still privilege one type of sex (so-called romantic sex in the context of a committed relationship) over others. Once again, each person’s definitions of hook-ups, romance and casual sex are different which likely represents one of the study’s limitations alongside small numbers of respondents in certain relationship categories. Nonetheless, the reminder that sex doesn’t make teens want to dropout of school offers yet another nail-in-the-coffin in support of much-needed and effective comprehensive sex education programs.
And while the headlines may misleadingly suggest that casual sex leads to poor school performance, we are fortunate enough to engage with critical readers and researchers who offer the reminder that correlation does not imply causation.