Why Teens Should Wait to Date
A recent report found that teenagers who didn’t date had better social, emotional and interpersonal skills. Are there reasons a wise teenager would consider not dating?
A seven-year study by the University of Georgia researched the effects of dating on students from grades 6 to 12. It seemed a logical hypothesis that teens who dated would have better emotional, social and interpersonal skills than their peers who didn’t date. But the study’s results actually found the opposite.
The study found that those who didn’t date during their teen years had better interpersonal skills and were far less likely to have feelings of depression, sadness and hopelessness. In general, teenagers who didn’t date were happier and more emotionally balanced than those who did.
Yet in today’s society, teenage dating is viewed as a normal process of growing up, and those who don’t date are often seen (as the report says) as “social misfits.” But though the research showed that it seems to be healthier for teens to delay dating, it didn’t propose concrete reasons why this is the case.
Though it may not be quantifiable, perhaps it is because much of the stress and anxiety teenagers experience seems to come from dating relationships.
Are there principles of wisdom found in the Bible that would support a teenager making a conscious decision not to date? Let’s consider a few reasons a wise teenager might decide not to have a romantic relationship in his or her teen years.
The dangers of teen sexual activity
We live in an over-sexualized culture that seems to encourage sexual activity in the teen years—as long as it is practiced safely. Statistics show that by the 12th grade 57 percent of students have had sex. Romantic relationships can lead to sex even for those who don’t plan on having sex. Sometimes circumstances, emotions and lack of self-control can lead teens to make spur-of-the-moment decisions they never intended to make.
Sometimes circumstances, emotions and lack of self-control can lead teens to make spur-of-the-moment decisions they never intended to make.Sexual relationships among teenagers lead to many bad consequences. According to the CDC, young people between the ages of 13 and 24 made up 21 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2017. Young people make up half of the population diagnosed with STDs every year. In 2017, 194,377 babies were born to teen mothers in the United States.
The fact is that sex has many consequences that can be harmful to a teenager’s life and future. Though the “hookup” culture is a part of this problem, teen sexual activity also stems from teens engaging in serious romantic relationships and then not having the self-control to limit those relationships to being solely social and platonic.
The Bible gives wise advice on this topic. In the Song of Solomon, we read of a message given to a group of young women: “Do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!” (Song of Solomon 8:4, New Revised Standard Version). This is a very good insight for all young people to consider. Stirring up romantic feelings at an early age can bring many temptations and consequences that teenagers are simply unprepared for.
It is also designed for procreation (Genesis 1:28). This law of God is designed to protect, not restrict. Not only are teens not prepared to be effective parents, but teen relationships rarely result in marriage. So the children born to teenagers often will be raised by a single mother and will not have the benefits of being raised by a mother and father who are lovingly dedicated to each other and to raising the child as a team.
The maturity factor
It is wise for teenagers to focus on their personal development—their education, their personality, their character and their goals—instead of developing temporary romantic relationships.Research on the human brain has found that it is not fully developed until well after the teenage years. One function of the brain that is not fully developed during the teen years is the ability to control impulses. Brain imaging has found that the signals from the frontal lobe do not get to the back of the brain fast enough to always regulate emotions. This seems to be a reason risk-taking and impulsive behavior are common among teens.
Because maturity is still developing, it is dangerous for teenagers to put themselves in relationships that tempt them to engage in sexual activity before they are emotionally, physically or financially prepared to deal with the consequences.
The knowledge that the brain is not fully developed in the teen years also shows that teens’ personality, judgment and wisdom are still in a state of development during their teen years. It is wise for teenagers to focus on their personal development—their education, their personality, their character and their goals—instead of developing temporary romantic relationships that often bring stress and the possibility of temptations and consequences they are simply not ready (nor should they be) to deal with during these formative years.
Doing things in order
Another biblical principle of wisdom that teens should consider is found in Proverbs 24:27: “Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house.”
This simple proverb teaches the wisdom of building one’s life in the proper order, one that positions a person for success. Is it wise to pursue romantic relationships in the phase of one’s life that should be focused on education and preparing oneself for a career? Could romantic relationships in this phase of life be more of a distraction than a benefit?
The wisdom contained in this proverb supports what has been called the “success sequence,” which young people can follow to put themselves in the best position for success in life. The formula follows these steps in order:
- Find work. As Solomon noted, “money answers everything”—you need money to function in life (Ecclesiastes 10:19). Work is an essential part of life. The Bible teaches that people should work if they can (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12). Consistent employment allows people to be able to afford to marry and have children.
- Marry. Once a person finds work, he or she is better prepared for the financial responsibilities that come with marriage. Marriage is one of the biggest commitments a person can make. God intended marriage to be a lifelong commitment (Matthew 19:3-9).
- Have children. One of the worst mistakes a person can make is to have children early and outside of marriage. Teens are woefully unprepared to raise children—emotionally and financially. Children who are born to parents who follow the success sequence are much better positioned for successful lives.
By awakening romantic love during the phase of life that should be focused on personal development and preparation for the future, young people put themselves in danger of breaking the success sequence and making life more difficult for themselves.
Wise teenagers can learn about the opposite sex in their teenage years by developing a variety of friendships with people of the opposite sex, spending time together in safe social situations, and observing and learning what traits they prefer in a future spouse.