DataBank Indicator

Download Report

Since 2001, the share of twelfth-grade students who report dating frequently has declined steadily, reaching a new low of 17 percent in 2013, while the proportion who report not dating at all increased to 38 percent.

Importance

Throughout adolescence, teens become increasingly involved in a wide array of romantic experiences, including romantic and sexual relationships.  Being in a dating relationship—where youth spend time with a current or potential romantic partner—is one common pattern, and is considered an important developmental marker for teens.[1] Dating is associated with both positive and negative developmental outcomes.[2],[3],[4] Teenagers in some dating relationships report higher levels of self-esteem and self-confidence, and are more likely to perceive themselves as popular, and to do well in school.[5],[6] However, teenagers in other types of dating relationships frequently have lower levels of academic achievement and motivation, higher levels of depression, and higher levels of drug and alcohol use.[7] These associations depend in large part on characteristics of the relationship, including its timing and duration, the quality of partner interactions, the cognitive and emotional status of the participants, and whether the relationship includes sexual activity.[8],[9],[10] In any case, adolescents’ experiences in dating set the stage for dating and relationship experiences in adulthood.[11]

While dating among teenagers has been common in the U.S. since the 1920s, each generation has had its own style of dating and popular dating activities.  Today’s teens describe a progression from mixed-sex group outings, to pairing off within the group, to individuals going on dates with one another.[12],[13] Popular dating activities include going out to dinner or the movies, “hanging out” at school or the mall, and visiting each other’s homes.[14]

Concern has also been raised about an uncommitted form of dating referred to as “hooking up,” characterized by casual sex, though the term encompasses many other types of sexual encounters.[15] Although only 28 percent of urban secondary students had engaged in any form of “hook-up” in 2009, the practice was associated with drug use, truancy, and school suspensions.  However, even when only looking at “hook-ups” involving sexual intercourse, the research shows that 62 percent of hook-ups were between friends, and another 23 percent were between acquaintances, rather than strangers.[16]

Trends

Although dating in adolescence is still common, students in the eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades in 2013 were less likely to date than they were in 1991.  The shift in behavior is more pronounced for twelfth-grade students, where the proportion of youth who did not date more than doubled, from 14 percent in 1991 to 38 percent in 2013.  In the same period, the proportion of tenth-graders who never date increased from 28 to 44 percent, and the proportion of eighth-graders increased from 48 to 60 percent. (Figure 1)

73_fig1
In a similar trend, the proportion of teens that date more than once a week has been decreasing.  Between 1991 and 2013, the percentage of twelfth-graders who went on more than one date per week declined from 34 to 16 percent. In the same time period, the proportion of tenth-graders who frequently dated also declined (from 17 to 9 percent). The proportion of eighth-graders who date frequently stayed level between 1991 and 2009, between seven and eight percent. However, the proportion has since decreased, and was at five percent in 2013. (Figure 2)

 73_fig2Differences by Age

In 2013, more than one-half (60 percent) of eighth-grade students reported never dating, compared with 44 percent of tenth-graders and 38 percent of twelfth-graders. (Figure 1)

The share of students who date more than once a week increases markedly with age, from 5 percent among eighth-grade students, to 9 percent of tenth-grade students, and 16 percent of students in the twelfth grade (preliminary estimates). (Figure 2)

Differences by Gender

In 2013, male eighth-graders were more likely to date frequently than were their female counterparts (seven and four percent, respectively), but in tenth and twelfth grades the two sexes were equally likely to report frequent dating.  (Appendix 2) However, eighth- and tenth-grade females were more likely than males to report that they never date, though the gap decreases with age. (Appendix 1)

Differences Race/Hispanic Origin[17]

73_fig3White students in the twelfth grade were significantly more likely than black students to date frequently.  In 2013, 17 percent of white twelfth-graders reported frequent dating (more than once a week), compared with 11 percent of black students.  There was no significant difference in the percentages of white and Hispanic students in twelfth grade who date frequently.  White students were more likely than black students to date frequently in tenth grade, as well (nine and seven percent, respectively), but, again, Hispanic students were not significantly more likely to date frequently than white students.  In eighth grade, however, Hispanic students and black students were equally likely to date frequently (seven percent), followed by white students (four percent). (Appendix 1)

A complementary pattern by race/Hispanic origin holds for the percentages of twelfth- graders who never date. However, in both eighth and tenth grades, in 2013 white students were more likely to never date than black students; both were less likely than Hispanics to never date in tenth grade, but white and Hispanic students were more likely to never date in eighth grade than black students. (Figure 3)

Differences by Parents’ Education

In 2013, eighth- and tenth-graders whose parents had received more education were somewhat less likely to report dating frequently. For instance, while eight percent of tenth-graders whose parents had completed college reported dating frequently, ten percent whose parents had only a high school diploma did so. (Appendix 2

State and Local Estimates

None available.

International Estimates

None available.

National Goals

None.

Related Indicators

Definition

The Monitoring the Future Survey asks students “On average, how often do you go out with a date (or your spouse, if you are married)?”  The possible responses are: never; once a month or less; 2 or 3 times a month; once a week; 2 or 3 times a week; over three times a week.

Frequent dating is used here to describe youth who report going out on more than one date in an average week.

Data Source

Child Trends’ original analysis of the Monitoring the Future Survey, 1976 to 2013.

Raw Data Source

Bachman, J. G., Johnston, L. D., and O’Malley, P. M. Monitoring the Future: A continuing study of American youth (8th, 10th, and 12th-Grade Surveys), 1976-2012 [Computer files]. Conducted by University of Michigan, Survey Research Center. ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producer and distributor].

ICPSR: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu

Monitoring the Future: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/

 

Appendix 1 – Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-Grade Students in the United States Who  Report That They Never Date: Selected Years, 1976-2013

1976 1980 1985 1990 1991 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Eighth Grade 48.2 50.6 47.9 49.6 51.5 52.6 51.4 52.0 49.9 50.2 50.3 50.1 51.6 53.3 58.0 59.7
Gender
Male 42.0 44.0 42.4 44.6 45.9 47.6 46.2 47.0 44.9 44.8 44.0 43.3 45.1 47.1 52.1 52.7
Female 54.4 56.8 53.1 54.3 56.8 57.5 56.6 56.8 54.6 55.8 56.8 56.5 57.7 59.6 64.0 66.8
Race
White 48.5 49.7 48.5 48.7 50.7 52.1 50.9 52.0 50.7 51.4 50.5 50.4 52.8 53.5 59.8 62.6
Black 50.7 54.9 49.8 54.6 53.0 53.4 52.1 52.5 53.1 49.6 48.2 45.1 49.7 52.5 54.9 54.2
Hispanic 46.2 47.1 48.3 51.0 55.4
Parental Education1
Less than high school 47.3 48.2 48.1 48.4 52.8 57.2 50.8 49.8 49.1 46.0 48.2 47.3 46.9 48.7 54.9 55.0
Completed high school 48.8 49.3 45.9 48.2 49.2 49.6 48.8 50.3 47.1 47.4 47.5 45.7 47.5 48.4 53.3 54.9
Some college 47.5 48.6 45.9 47.6 49.4 51.5 48.8 48.3 47.7 47.0 47.5 47.1 47.7 50.4 54.6 56.8
Completed college 49.4 52.9 49.0 50.9 51.8 53.1 52.4 53.1 52.1 53.6 52.2 52.1 54.5 55.7 60.9 62.7
Graduate school 43.3 49.2 45.5 48.0 53.5 52.9 52.8 54.3 49.3 51.7 51.7 53.3 55.7 57.7 61.0 63.0
College Plans
None or under 4 years 44.4 43.0 43.4 47.7 45.7 46.6 44.2 46.8 42.2 41.6 42.2 45.6 43.0 43.9 49.8 50.5
Complete four years 48.8 51.6 48.6 49.9 52.1 53.4 52.1 52.6 50.6 51.1 51.1 50.5 52.2 54.1 58.4 60.3
1976 1980 1985 1990 1991 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Tenth Grade 28.2 29.7 32.4 33.2 34.4 36.5 37.1 36.9 35.1 35.2 36.8 35.7 36.4 37.9 40.5 44.0
Gender
Male 27.1 29.6 31.8 32.3 33.2 36.4 36.3 35.7 32.3 33.3 34.3 33.2 33.9 35.3 37.4 39.1
Female 29.2 30.0 33.0 33.9 35.2 36.6 37.9 38.1 37.8 37.1 39.1 38.1 38.8 40.5 43.5 48.4
Race
White 24.3 26.9 29.2 30.8 30.9 33.8 34.9 34.4 33.1 33.3 35.4 34.4 35.7 36.0 39.4 44.2
Black 37.9 39.0 40.3 43.2 42.6 39.8 39.4 40.3 38.8 38.9 40.6 37.5 38.6 37.0 42.7 42.7
Hispanic 32.4 32.0 39.0 35.7 39.7
Parental Education1
Less than high school 33.8 33.4 40.1 38.1 38.6 37.6 41.0 38.8 36.8 35.1 36.9 34.8 33.3 37.5 38.4 42.3
Completed high school 27.3 28.8 32.0 32.9 32.4 35.3 35.7 34.4 34.1 32.7 33.9 33.3 33.7 36.5 37.8 40.0
Some college 26.9 27.3 30.2 31.5 33.8 34.3 35.5 34.4 33.2 33.5 34.1 33.2 34.4 35.7 38.0 40.4
Completed college 26.4 30.1 30.4 32.5 33.0 36.9 36.3 36.9 34.7 36.9 37.4 36.2 37.5 37.9 40.5 47.1
Graduate school 28.0 31.3 31.6 31.8 34.9 38.5 38.2 40.2 36.0 36.6 41.3 40.0 39.9 41.1 45.5 49.7
College Plans
None or under 4 years 26.8 30.5 33.7 33.7 34.6 37.6 35.4 37.1 34.2 34.5 31.8 35.6 34.4 37.8 39.4 41.0
Complete four years 28.6 29.5 32.0 33.1 34.3 36.2 37.3 36.9 35.1 35.3 37.3 35.7 36.6 37.9 40.0 44.2
1976 1980 1985 1990 1991 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Twelfth Grade 15.1 12.7 12.7 14.3 14.0 17.1 20.8 22.2 23.3 25.3 26.6 27.6 27.1 27.2 28.3 29.4 30.4 34.1 35.6 38.2
Gender
Male 14.7 12.0 13.0 14.4 13.7 16.9 20.6 22.5 23.5 26.0 27.3 28.4 27.6 27.2 27.7 29.0 29.8 34.3 34.1 36.3
Female 15.5 13.6 12.5 14.0 14.3 17.2 20.7 21.8 22.9 24.8 26.1 26.9 26.6 27.1 29.1 29.6 31.0 34.0 36.7 39.8
Race
White 14.3 11.6 10.6 11.6 11.9 14.2 18.2 19.4 21.2 21.7 24.0 24.3 25.0 24.9 25.4 26.6 28.0 32.0 32.7 35.3
Black 16.7 16.8 17.9 21.0 20.4 22.5 25.4 27.5 29.9 32.0 30.8 32.2 30.6 31.2 33.1 33.5 37.9 39.7 40.8 43.6
Hispanic 31.5 29.9 31.1 36.2 38.4
Parental Education1
Less than high school 17.7 15.8 17.0 21.2 18.9 22.1 21.6 28.8 28.7 29.3 30.4 31.1 27.8 29.1 33.3 33.5 34.6 34.7 37.7 35.3
Completed high school 14.2 12.3 12.7 13.4 14.1 17.0 19.4 21.6 23.6 25.1 25.3 25.9 26.5 27.3 28.2 30.2 30.1 34.0 35.4 43.6
Some college 14.0 11.0 11.4 13.3 13.0 15.0 20.5 20.0 21.3 23.6 23.9 25.6 25.3 24.4 26.5 26.9 29.4 32.0 33.3 38.4
Completed college 13.4 12.2 11.0 12.5 11.9 16.8 19.9 21.4 22.2 23.8 27.6 27.3 26.6 27.5 26.5 26.9 28.7 33.8 34.8 36.6
Graduate school 15.5 13.5 12.9 13.7 14.9 17.4 22.3 23.9 23.2 25.1 27.2 30.4 29.5 29.1 30.9 33.0 30.7 37.7 37.6 41.1
College Plans
None or under 4 years 15.1 12.5 12.9 15.3 15.3 17.9 20.7 25.2 25.8 27.1 27.0 29.4 28.5 29.1 29.2 32.1 31.5 34.5 34.9 38.3
Complete four years 15.1 12.7 12.6 13.9 13.6 16.9 20.8 21.4 22.6 24.8 26.4 27.1 26.7 26.7 28.0 29.0 30.3 34.1 35.8 38.2
1 Parental education is the average education of the two parents. In those circumstances where the gap between mothers’ and fathers’ education is more than one level, this results in an underestimate of the most educated parent’s education level.

Source: Original analysis by Child Trends of Monitoring the Future data, 1976-2013.

 

Appendix 2 – Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-Grade Students in the United States Who Report That They Date Frequently (going out on more than one date a week): Selected Years, 1976-2013

1976 1980 1985 1990 1991 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Eighth Grade 8.0 7.1 7.9 7.5 7.7 7.1 7.0 6.9 7.2 7.7 7.5 7.9 7.5 7.0 6.2 5.1
Gender
Male 9.1 7.7 9.6 8.9 9.0 8.6 8.4 7.7 8.8 9.0 9.3 9.4 9.6 8.5 7.2 6.5
Female 6.9 6.4 6.3 6.1 6.1 5.7 5.5 5.9 5.6 6.4 5.7 6.5 5.6 5.4 4.9 3.6
Race
White 6.9 6.2 7.0 6.5 6.6 6.4 5.7 5.6 5.9 6.3 6.7 6.8 6.4 5.6 4.7 3.6
Black 10.1 7.2 8.1 6.7 7.7 7.4 9.9 8.7 8.0 8.7 7.8 8.6 8.3 9.0 7.2 6.9
Hispanic 10.7 9.9 9.6 9.3 7.3
Parental Education2
Less than high school 11.8 11.6 10.5 12.2 10.5 8.3 9.9 10.7 10.2 11.4 10.7 11.2 9.5 10.6 6.8 6.6
Completed high school 9.1 7.3 7.8 7.8 7.5 7.7 6.7 7.0 6.9 8.6 8.4 9.1 8.5 8.6 7.9 6.0
Some college 7.8 5.8 6.8 6.0 7.8 6.9 6.8 6.5 6.2 7.1 6.5 7.5 6.7 7.4 5.4 5.2
Completed college 5.7 5.7 6.8 6.7 6.9 6.1 5.7 6.2 6.1 6.2 6.0 6.6 7.3 5.1 5.1 4.0
Graduate school 7.7 7.3 9.6 9.0 7.8 6.7 7.0 5.6 8.7 7.3 7.5 6.1 6.8 5.6 5.7 4.5
College Plans
None or under 4 years 13.7 12.5 12.7 11.8 12.2 13.2 12.1 9.6 11.8 13.2 15.8 12.8 12.6 12.1 12.6 12.2
Complete four years 7.1 6.4 7.3 7.0 7.1 6.4 6.4 6.5 6.7 7.1 6.7 7.4 7.1 6.6 5.7 4.7
1976 1980 1985 1990 1991 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Tenth Grade 17.3 15.8 14.7 14.8 13.7 13.6 12.9 12.7 13.1 12.5 11.7 12.7 12.4 10.8 10.7 9.0
Gender
Male 13.5 12.5 13.9 13.1 12.1 11.5 11.3 11.8 12.2 12.0 11.3 12.2 12.0 10.8 10.3 9.8
Female 20.9 19.1 15.5 16.4 15.3 15.4 14.2 13.5 13.8 12.8 12.0 13.3 12.7 10.6 10.9 8.2
Race
White 19.1 16.9 16.2 15.8 15.1 15.1 13.8 13.9 13.4 13.2 11.9 12.8 12.4 11.3 10.7 8.7
Black 11.7 12.1 10.2 9.5 9.5 9.9 8.9 9.6 11.2 8.1 8.0 11.5 9.7 9.5 8.6 7.2
Hispanic 15.6 15.0 10.9 12.7 10.8
Parental Education2
Less than high school 16.7 17.2 12.1 14.6 13.9 15.8 15.7 13.1 17.1 14.1 14.1 14.8 17.0 11.6 12.8 12.2
Completed high school 18.1 17.6 17.0 15.8 14.8 15.0 14.2 14.6 14.7 13.2 13.6 15.0 13.7 11.1 11.5 10.3
Some college 18.6 16.2 15.2 15.7 14.1 13.5 12.8 12.4 13.9 12.7 11.8 12.4 13.0 11.3 10.9 8.8
Completed college 17.4 15.1 14.9 13.6 11.9 12.8 11.8 12.4 11.3 11.7 10.3 12.1 10.9 10.2 10.0 8.3
Graduate school 14.2 13.2 13.1 14.3 14.9 11.8 12.3 11.0 10.9 11.4 10.0 10.1 9.7 9.9 9.5 6.8
College Plans
None or under 4 years 21.1 18.3 18.3 15.8 15.8 15.0 14.6 14.5 17.3 14.7 16.3 15.1 15.1 13.3 13.7 10.7
Complete four years 16.4 15.4 14.3 14.6 13.4 13.3 12.7 12.4 12.4 12.2 11.2 12.5 12.0 10.5 10.5 8.9
1976 1980 1985 1990 1991 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Twelfth Grade 32.9 33.1 34.0 33.6 34.2 32.1 28.3 29.0 27.6 27.0 26.8 25.3 23.7 24.1 22.7 22.7 20.9 17.9 17.3 16.3
Gender
Male 27.7 28.5 29.5 30.5 30.7 28.3 26.4 26.8 26.4 24.6 24.4 23.9 21.6 23.7 22.9 22.8 20.6 17.9 17.3 16.2
Female 38.1 37.6 38.2 37.0 37.8 35.5 30.2 31.3 28.5 28.9 29.1 26.7 25.5 24.5 22.4 22.5 20.9 17.8 17.2 16.5
Race
White 34.0 34.6 36.5 36.5 37.1 35.0 30.9 31.7 29.1 29.4 29.4 27.4 24.6 25.5 24.2 23.7 22.2 18.6 18.1 17.0
Black 27.1 25.1 24.9 23.6 22.2 22.5 19.2 21.1 19.6 19.8 17.3 17.0 17.5 17.1 18.4 16.3 16.0 14.2 12.9 10.7
Hispanic 24.0 21.4 20.4 18.5 18.4
Parental Education2
Less than high school 32.3 34.2 31.7 30.4 30.9 28.9 29.3 28.3 25.5 24.5 23.5 22.7 23.7 24.1 20.9 21.6 22.0 19.9 18.9 14.7
Completed high school 35.6 36.3 36.3 37.0 36.6 34.1 28.9 30.1 29.8 28.6 29.0 26.1 24.5 26.1 23.8 23.3 20.2 17.9 18.7 16.2
Some college 32.4 33.4 35.1 34.5 34.0 34.0 30.0 29.9 27.4 26.9 28.3 26.0 25.2 24.8 23.3 22.9 21.6 18.6 16.9 16.7
Completed college 29.0 29.3 32.7 32.6 35.0 31.3 28.6 28.9 27.3 27.8 26.0 26.5 22.2 22.9 22.2 22.8 21.2 17.2 16.9 17.0
Graduate school 30.0 28.4 30.1 29.1 30.7 27.9 23.5 26.0 26.5 25.5 25.4 22.5 22.5 22.4 22.2 21.2 19.5 16.5 16.2 15.0
College Plans
None or under 4 years 38.6 40.0 38.8 37.5 37.2 35.7 30.2 29.8 28.8 28.8 28.9 26.0 24.7 25.1 23.4 22.7 21.3 17.7 18.2 17.3
Complete four years 27.7 28.2 31.2 32.0 33.0 30.8 27.5 28.9 27.3 26.5 26.4 25.1 23.5 23.9 22.7 22.6 20.7 17.8 17.1 16.1
1 Frequent dating is used here to describe youth who report going out on more than one date a week.

2Parental education is the average education of the two parents. In those circumstances where the gap between mothers’ and fathers’ education is more than one level, this results in an underestimate of the most educated parent’s education level.

Source: Original analysis by Child Trends of Monitoring the Future data, 1976-2013.

 

Endnotes


[1]Collins, W.A., Welsh, D.P., Furman, W. (2009). Adolescent romantic relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 631-652.

[2]Quatman, T., Sampson, K., Robinson, C., & Watson, C. M. (2001). Academic, motivational, and adolescent dating. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 127(2), 211-234.

[3]Furman, W. (2002). The emerging field of adolescent romantic relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science , 11(5), 177-181.

[4]Collins, W.A., Welsh, D.P., Furman, W. (2009). Op cit.

[5]Quatman, T., Sampson, K., Robinson, C., & Watson, C. M. (2001). Op cit.

[6]Collins, W.A., Welsh, D.P., Furman, W. (2009). Op cit.

[7]Ibid.

[8]Furman, W. (2002). Op cit.

[9]Collins, W.A., Welsh, D.P., Furman, W. (2009). Op cit.

[10]
McCarthy, B., Casey, T. (2008). Love, sex, and crime: Adolescent romantic relationships and offending. American Sociological Review, 73, 944.

[11]Collins, W.A., Welsh, D.P., Furman, W. (2009). Op cit.

[12]Feiring, C. (2002). Learning the ways of romance. In J. J. Arnett (Ed.), Readings on adolescence and emerging adulthood (pp. 173-182). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

[13]O’Sullivan, L.F., Cheng, M.M., Harris, K.M., Brooks-Gunn, J. (2007) I wanna hold your hand: The progression of social, romantic and sexual events in adolescent relationships. Perspective on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 39(2), 100-107.

[14]Ibid.

[15]Stepp, Laura S. (2007). Unhooked: How young women pursue sex, delay love, and lose at both. New York: Riverhead Books.

[16]Fortunado, L., Young, A. M., Boyd, C. J., & Fons, C. E. (2010). Hook-up sexual experiences and problem behaviors among adolescents. Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse, 19(3), 261-278.

[17]Hispanics may be any race. Estimates for white and black students in this report include Hispanics.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2015). Dating. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=dating

 

Last updated: December 2015
 

Subscribe to Child Trends

Short weekly updates of recent research on children and youth.