Students who date in junior high school are four times more likely to drop out and twice as likely to drink, smoke cigarettes and use marijuana compared to their single classmates, a new U.S. study says.
Researchers surveyed 624 Georgia students in Grades 6 to 12, and their teachers.
"At all points in time, teachers rated the students who reported the lowest frequency of dating as having the best study skills and the students with the highest dating as having the worst study skills," the study said.
Researchers said some of the students likely start dating early as part of an overall pattern of high-risk behaviours.
Pamela Orpinas, study author and professor in the College of Public Health and head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, said the study suggests "dating should not be considered a rite of passage in middle school."
The study is published in the Journal of Research of Adolescence.