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Silverman said, do not necessarily appear early on. Furman, red flags are raised by ''precocious daters'' who pair off before their peers, and by ''uneven, inequitable relationships,'' in which one partner is controlling and the other dependent. Ehrensaft said she would be concerned about the relationships of teenagers who were already depressed or troubled and about partners who were more than two years apart in age.Notwithstanding the need for vigilance, she said that parents must come to terms with the fact that teenagers will have relationships.Kara Joyner, a sociologist at Cornell University, who conducted the study with Dr. Richard Udry, director of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, based at the University of North Carolina.
Teenagers' growing capacity for positive romantic relationships has been traced by Dr.
Larson confirmed what parents since Adam and Eve have observed: adolescents are either very happy or very unhappy much more often than adults, especially concerning romance. Larson correlated their more numerous negative responses to what he called ''a certain randomness'' and superficiality in their attachments, which make their relationships less rewarding.
Indeed, he said, this dissatisfaction is most pronounced among among the younger, less experienced teenagers, who ''haven't yet learned how to have fun and get along.'' He observed, '' It takes time for a teenager to realize that a relationship isn't just an infatuation based on haphazard attraction, but an entity on which two people with compatible personalities work together.'' Earlier studies of youthful romance tended to focus on its risks and those who were most vulnerable. Jay Silverman, director of violence prevention programs at the Harvard School of Public Health, published in August in The Journal of the American Medical Association, reported that about one in five high school girls had been physically or sexually harmed by a dating partner -- about the same rate at which adult women report being abused by partners. Silverman found that compared with girls who had not been abused, the victims were four to six times as likely to have been pregnant, eight to nine times as likely to have attempted suicide, three to four times as likely to have used laxatives or vomiting to lose weight, and three to five times as likely to have used cocaine. Silverman said that partner abuse among teenagers was ''typically ignored'' -- even in youth programs that focused on some of the very problems, like unwed pregnancy and addiction, that were linked to such violence.
Dating violence occurs across socioeconomic boundaries, he said, and ''like wealthier abused women, kids from 'nice' families may have to surmount more psychological barriers to report partner violence.'' Dr.
Silverman advised, '' Parents should be more tuned in to their teenagers' dating and should keep educating themselves and their children about healthy relationships.'' Violence is not the only risk in teenage relationships.
She urged, '' Rather than saying that's good or bad, try to help them form positive ones.'' Preparation for good dating experiences begins well before adolescence.