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Tweens, Dating and Sex - Early Relationships Often Involve Sexual Activity

Tweens More Sexually Active at Earlier Age Than Parents Realize

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According to the July 2008 "Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study" commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and loveisespect.org, The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, dating relationships and sexual activity among tweens are becoming the norm for young adolescents.

For the purposes of this study, the following groups were defined as follows:
Tweens - adolescents age 11-14
Teens - adolecents age 15-18
Parents - adults with a child age 11-14

The survey revealed the following about tween behavior and tween sexuality:

Dating relationships begin much earlier than adults realize.

  • 47% of tweens and 37% of 11 and 12-year olds say they've been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.
  • 72% say dating relationships begin by age 14.
Nearly one-third of tweens and parents say sexual activity is a part of tween dating relationships.
Specifically, the percentage of tweens and parents identified below acknowledge the following acts as part of a dating relationship:
  • Touching and feeling up - 37% of tweens and 31% of parents
  • Oral sex - 27% of tweens and 26% of parents
  • Sexual intercourse - 28% of tweens and 26% of parents
Tweens in relationships report sexual activity among their peer group.
  • 47% know a friend or someone their age who has touched and felt up a partner.
  • 31% know a friend or peer who has had oral sex.
  • 33% know a friend or peer who has had sexual intercourse.
Parents continue to believe 'it's not my child.'
Of the parents who say that sex is part of a tween relationship:
  • 59% know that their child has kissed a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • 17% know their child has made out with a partner.
  • Only 7% say their child has gone further than kissing or making out.
The "Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study" was conducted January 2-18, 2008 by TRU (Teenage Research Unlimited) and the survey's findings were released July 8, 2008.

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