"Dating can be exciting and high energy but [generally] kids tend to prevent each other from becoming too intimate in those situations." Despite the statistics, there are some adolescents who become "couples" and engage in "heavy activities" such as petting or actual intercourse.These behaviors are not healthy at this age and carry both behavioural and physical risks, emphasizes Connolly.In her study published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, Connolly found the majority of 12- and 13-year-old adolescents were largely confined to sexually "light activities." These include hugging, holding hands, and kissing.The study also found that three out of four young teens have never sexually touched or been touched above or below the waist."Even in middle school studies, we have seen that abuse and aggression can occur.It can happen out of the blue for a kid," Connolly says.In another study Connolly found that 15% of teens are in dating relationships that are recurrently aggressive and that the violence tends to increase in a second relationship."If you see physical bruises, it is quite serious abuse, but more often it is much more minor." Pushing, shoving, aggressive, and controlling behaviour are more common.
If you think your child is being abused, you need to engage your child in an open discussion in order to help."Parents should take an active role in teaching and helping their kids understand what normal dating behaviours are." By understanding what "healthy" dating is at this age, parents can set limits and protect their child.At the end of the day, "it's better than saying they shouldn't date at all." "What is healthy is being in a group of boys and girls and transitioning from same-sex-only groups into groups in contact with the other sex," says Connolly. "But I didn't start dating until I was 18," says Mom. According to one survey, nearly half of teens between the ages of 11 to 14 years old are dating. More and more parents are faced with this dilemma today.