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College of Human Ecology

Teens choosing group, rather than steady date

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Teens and young adults are waiting longer to date exclusively, choose a partner and marry, said Elaine Johannes, Kansas State University Research and Extension youth development specialist.

According to a 2004 National Center for Health Statistics study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average age for a first-time marriage for males is 26.8 years of age and, for females, 25 years of age, she said.

That´s up, Johannes said. The U. S. Census Bureau, which tracks such statistics, reports that in 1977, the average age of marriage for males was 24, and, for women, 21; in 1987, nearly 26 for men and 23 for women; and, in 1997, nearly 27 for men and nearly 25 for women.

While the teen years remain a time of growth and development, with ups and downs that often are part of learning more about yourself and the larger world, teens often are choosing group activities, rather than a steady date, she said.

"Such groups typically include a mix of six to eight or 10 males and females and offer teens an opportunity to practice their social skills in a safe, friendly environment," Johannes said.

Teen groups - or clusters, a term social scientists are using - frequently choose others with similar interests, family backgrounds and expectations, Johannes said.

While such groups provide companionship and might seem to reduce risks, issues for parents of teens and young adults - success in the classroom, safe driving, saying "no" to drugs, alcohol and early sexual encounters - are still perennial issues, said Johannes, who offered these tips for parents:

* Get to know your teenager´s friends.

* Make your home welcoming to his or her friends - spring for expenses to help your teen host a pre-game pizza or Sloppy Joes or have movie night at your home. Don´t try, however, to become the life of the party.

* Engage your teen in casual conversation, while driving to or from an activity or sharing a snack, to nurture family relationships. A history of good conversation also can make it easier for parents and teens to talk more easily about difficult issues.

* Communicate your expectations; encourage, rather than nag.

* Know where - and with whom - your teen is, the activity planned, transportation arrangements, and return time.

* Monitor the use of electronics, including cell phone numbers called, text messages sent to unknown addresses, and Internet sites visited.

"One other word of caution for parents of teens involves sexual behaviors," Johannes said. While group activities might seem to put a damper on early sexual encounters, a 2004 CDC study reports that 47 percent of high school students have had intercourse.

Parents should still take heart, Johannes said. Research also shows that most teens will ultimately adhere to their family´s rules, values and expectations. More information on adolescent development and managing family life through the teen years is available at local or district K-State Research and Extension offices.

Story by:
Nancy Peterson
K-State Research and Extension

For more information:
Elaine Johannes is at 785-532-5773 or ejohanne@ksu.edu

This article was posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.