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'' Hope that he or she is learning more from it than from your lectures on the subject. If you keep your cool, they'll talk to you more.'' Dr.Kaufman said she suspected that some parents' anxiety reflected their ''discomfort with the idea of teens enjoying themselves, instead of trying to get into Harvard.'''' Relationships are an even more important part of life than where you go to college,'' she said.'' And that first flush of love can be really exhilarating. Larson agreed that wise parents balanced being available to their teenage children with the understanding that the young needed to learn on their own.A middle-aged man dating a much younger woman has long been thought of in American culture as a classic sign of midlife crisis.Last December, The Journal of Health and Social Behavior published a study called '' You Don't Bring Me Anything but Down,'' which reported that compared with unattached peers, involved adolescents were somewhat more vulnerable to depression, delinquency, alcohol abuse and problems with school and parents.The most likely of all teenagers to become depressed are romantically involved girls ages 12 to 14, said Dr.Lately, teenage romance has caught the attention of a number of researchers, who are increasingly interested in its potentially positive as well as negative effects -- not just on adolescence, but on adult relationships and well-being. Wyndol Furman, an editor of the book '' The Development of Romantic Relationships in Adolescence,'' understanding teenage dating means understanding that adolescence is ''a roiling emotional caldron whose major fuel -- more than parents, peers or school and almost as much as those things combined -- is the opposite sex.'' Dr.Furman, a professor of psychology at the University of Denver, said adolescents' lack of social skills and emotional control can make relationships difficult.
After studying the association between teenagers' romances and mental health, she concluded that such relationships reflected teenagers' previous emotional attachments with family and peers and helped to predict the quality of later relationships and to show patterns that are repeated from one generation to the next.'' Before we conclude that adolescent relationships have no positive features,'' 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.
Next, he said, boys and girls date in groups -- ''you kiss, then go to the movies'' -- and become more interested in the close companionship sought by older teenagers.
Teenagers' growing capacity for positive romantic relationships has been traced by Dr.