Adolescence is an exhilarating period when individuals begin to develop romantic interests in others. While high school relationships are often seen as fleeting, there are cases where first love turns into a lifelong commitment.
So, how common is it for high school relationships to last? Can they endure beyond graduation? Read on to discover the percentage of high school relationships that last and explore the pros and cons of teenage relationships, as well as the reasons why many of them fail.
Facts About High School Relationships
Let’s dive into some statistics on high school relationships:
- 63% of high school students have been on at least one date before they reach 12th grade.
- 57% of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 regularly date, and one-third of them have a steady partner.
- 71% of high school relationships are with someone of the opposite sex.
- In high school, steady romantic relationships typically last around 6 months for 16-year-olds and about a year for 17 and 18-year-olds.
- Research suggests that experiences from high school dating, such as conflict-solving skills and communication patterns, often carry over into subsequent marriages.
Pros and Cons of High School Relationships
High school relationships offer valuable lessons in building interpersonal connections with peers and romantic partners. For some individuals, falling in love plays a significant role in understanding themselves and the world around them.
While high school dating can be a positive experience for many, it also has its drawbacks. Let’s explore some advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages of a high school relationship:
- Boosts self-esteem
- Improves social status
- Provides support and companionship
- Contributes to the development of sexuality
- Fosters independence from parents
- Helps in understanding the qualities desired in a future partner
Disadvantages of a high school relationship:
- Increased stress and potential for depression
- Risk of alcohol use and smoking
- Decline in academic performance
- Risk of teen pregnancy (16.7% of teenagers got pregnant in 2019)
- Higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases
- Possible dating violence and aggression (occurs in 25% of women and 15% of men before the age of 18)
- Unhealthy weight control to attract a romantic partner, among other risks
As individuals mature, they approach love with more caution. The skills learned during high school relationships often influence their behavior in adulthood.
How Many High School Relationships Last into Adulthood?
Many people believe that the primary purpose of high school relationships is to learn how to express feelings and communicate with a potential romantic partner. However, most individuals leave their first love behind as they grow up and enter adult life.
While some high school couples do stay together and even marry before coming of age, statistics show that early marriages have a higher risk of ending in divorce.
According to a report by the CDC, the probability of divorce after one year of marriage is 10% for couples married at the age of 18 or younger. This likelihood increases to 29% for couples who stay married for more than five years.
Comparatively, couples who marry between the ages of 20 and 25 have a divorce rate of 6% after one year and 17% after five years.
Several factors influence the duration of marriages among teenagers aged 15-19:
Family living arrangements:
Individuals who grew up with both parents until at least the age of 14 have a higher chance (58%) of having a lasting marriage. Other living arrangements, such as single parents or stepparents, decrease this chance to 38%.
Traditionally, Whites and Asians have the highest marriage rates, followed closely by the Hispanic population. In comparison, the black population has the lowest marriage rate (39%) and the highest divorce rate.
Among religious groups, Catholics have a 53% likelihood of their marriage lasting at least 20 years, while Protestants have a 50% likelihood. Other religions have a 65% likelihood. Individuals without a religion have the lowest likelihood of a long-lasting marriage (43%).
Marriage Rate Among Teenagers
The rate of teenage marriages in the United States has decreased over the years. In 1980, 19.8% of teenagers aged 15-17 were married. However, this trend slowed down in the following decades.
The average age at first marriage has increased from 24 for women and 26 for men in 1990 to 28 and 31 in 2020. Social trends, such as valuing personal freedom and breaking traditional behavior patterns, contribute to this change.
In recent years, only 2% of women and 6% of men get married before the age of 18.
How Long Do High School Relationships Last?
The most successful high school relationships tend to occur closer to graduation and are characterized by higher emotional support between the partners compared to relationships formed at earlier stages.
If adolescents in a romantic relationship perceive their bond as exclusive and supportive on all levels, they are more likely to be among the small percentage of high school relationships that last through college.
According to Victor W. Harris, a professor of Community Studies, early romantic relationships in middle school primarily focus on physical attraction. On the other hand, high school relationships tend to focus more on commitment and intimacy.
The duration of these early romantic interests depends on various factors, including attitudes towards dating, marriage, and having children, beliefs about sex, influence of media and peers, and the family environments teenagers grow up in.
As teenagers mature, they tend to form more enduring relationships that resemble the couple relationships of adulthood. These unions are stable and often last beyond high school graduation.
What Percentage of High School Couples Get Married?
Most high school couples break up during school or shortly after graduation, with the average duration of these relationships ranging from a few months to a year. Only a small percentage of high school couples stay together and get married.
While there is limited data on marrying one’s high school sweetheart, research on late adolescent relationships suggests that youth involved in serious romantic relationships during high school have a higher likelihood of getting married or cohabiting by the age of 25.
Why Do Many High School Relationships Fail?
High school relationships differ significantly from adult relationships. Teenagers do not yet face the same challenges as adult couples, such as earning money, housing, taxes, and mortgages. Their problems often revolve around lying, cheating, jealousy, and conflicts with family or friends.
The real test comes after high school graduation when couples face the realities of adult life. Adaptability to change and adjustment to new circumstances play a significant role in determining whether a relationship will last.
Various factors contribute to the failure of high school relationships:
During adolescence, individuals search for their own identities while also juggling romantic relationships. The struggle to balance self-identity exploration and intimacy often leads to relationship crises.
Changed perception of romantic relationships:
Priorities and goals shift as individuals grow older. Teenagers are primarily driven by excitement and new experiences, while adults seek emotional support, financial stability, and the possibility of building a family. Differing views on the future of the relationship can lead to breakups.
After high school, partners may attend colleges in different states, leading to long-distance relationships. The challenges of trust and jealousy that arise from the physical separation can strain the relationship and eventually cause a breakup.
Less time to see each other:
The heavy academic workload in college often leaves less time for dating compared to high school. Between attending classes and engaging in extracurricular activities or part-time jobs, students may struggle to prioritize their relationships.
While high school relationships face unique challenges, if couples can navigate these obstacles and adjust to changing circumstances, their relationships have a higher chance of lasting.
High school relationships come with various stereotypes, including the belief that relationships formed during this period are destined for failure. However, the duration of a relationship depends on numerous factors beyond age and experience.
High school couples can build strong and lasting relationships if they prioritize commitment, intimacy, and emotional support. While the majority of high school relationships may not last, there is always a chance for lasting love.