Could dating affect the likelihood of your student dropping out of school?

By: Jorge Lopez Email
By: Jorge Lopez Email

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, March 19, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Middle school can be an awkward time.

There are a lot of changes going on, especially with relationships.

Heloise Salter, the parent of a middle school student, says she allows her children to date as long as they follow her rules.

"If they go off together, they go in a group," she said. "Not a double date or single date."

But that's not the only rule.

"I'm the mom that taxis them around, and I go. I don't leave them," she said.

Places like movie theaters, skating rinks and bowling alleys are all popular spots for middle school daters, but one University of Georgia professor says you should make your teen wait before he or she dates.

Dr. Pamela Orpinas says she found dating in middle school makes a difference in academic success after following dating patterns of students in grades six through 12 for seven years.

"Kids who start dating early, sixth grade, were four times more likely to have dropped out of high school than the kids who start dating later," she said.

But that's not all.

"Students were also two times more likely to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana and smoke tobacco," Orpinas said.

Salter doesn't exactly buy into that because she says every child matures differently. Plus, not every parent is as involved as she is.

"I think that peer pressure may have something to do with whether the child gets involved in any kind of alcohol- or drug-related situation," she said.

She says expectations and limitations a parent sets are vital in helping children make the right decision when it comes to dating and alcohol abuse.

Looking at the graduation rates for Richmond County, the numbers for the 2008-2009 school year were 70 percent and climbed to 77 percent for the 2009-2010 school year. It dropped to 55 percent for the 2010-2011 school year.

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