Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Early and Late Dating

To the first group, dating is logically disadvantageous at any age. Among those who regard dating as educational, there is difference of opinion about when it should begin, and what the relative merits are of initiating it at an early or at a late age. Some think youngsters are fortunate if they become absorbed in projects and put off dating until they are relatively near the age of marriage. Others are so positive about the merits of learning through association across sex lines, that they are anxious to see adolescents begin dating associations early. Failure to date until the end of high school is therefore looked upon as an individual as well as a social handicap.

In reality, few have investigated the objective facts to determine the home conditions associated with early dating or analyzed the behavior patterns of either early or late dating. Necessarily, a first effort can do little beyond scratching the surface; still if it is found that measurable differences in family and social patterns exist between early and late daters, further inquiry may be expected to delineate more fully the nature and significance of these differences.

For a number of years, the writer has been studying dating behavior among high school and college students, an article showing that among five thousand students the initial age of dating varied with the age of those furnishing information but was practically the same for boys and girls. More recently, dating has been investigated in the high schools of three cities of approximately one hundred thousand population, located in distinctive sections of the country: Ohio, Texas, and California.

The purpose is to check the 1952 findings, to obtain a broader base for inference, and to get some indication as to variations in different parts of the country. In each of the three cities the evidence supports the earlier conclusions. Indeed it goes beyond the earlier findings and shows that respondent age is such a large and constant influence that both it and sex must be controlled if reliable conclusions are to be obtained as to the age dating begins.

The purpose of the present article is  to analyze some of the characteristics of those who start dating early in comparison with those who begin late, and insofar as the data in hand permit, to determine some of the differences in dating practices between those who begin dating early and those who begin late.

The method of investigation involved gaining the cooperation of the school authorities in each city and getting home room teachers to distribute and collect responses to a questionnaire as a part of the regular school work in the two (in South the three) upper classes of the high schools of the three cities. Such a procedure led to a minimum of interference with class activity, because the questionnaire was normally completed in ten minutes.

A brief explanation at the head of the questionnaire was intended to arouse the interest of the students and impress on them that responses would aid in a scientific attempt to find some of the conditions and facts associated with dating. Teachers were asked to report whether students appeared interested and seemed to fill out the forms with sincerity. Their statements were practically unanimous -- many of them expressing surprise -- that the students were so careful and painstaking in their replies. Returns varied between 72 and 97 per cent of the students enrolled in the classes surveyed in the three cities.

The chief determinant of the proportion of returns was the efficiency of distribution and collection of forms to home rooms, a condition related to the number of schools in the cities and to the interest of administrators in the inquiry. Teachers agreed that few students who were given the opportunity failed to respond. Whatever selection may have occurred, therefore, was accidental rather than conscious, the result of the mechanical processes of data collection. In the nature of the case a small fraction of the responses had to be discarded as incomplete or inconsistent, a smaller proportion as facetious.

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