Young adolescents and their awkward awakenings

August 31, 2009

Two studies show the lifelong impact of sexuality and body image on young teenagers.

Two studies show the lifelong impact of sexuality and body image on young teenagers.

The first, from the BMC Public Health, found the body mass index can be pretty directly correlated to satisfaction with their body. These aren't teenagers, thought: they're 10- and 11-year-olds. The girls had a linear response, according to lead researcher Bryn Austin, ScD: the skinnier they were, the happier they were. Boys were u-shaped; either too heavy or too skinny made them unsatisfied.

And that unsatisfaction may present itself in some damaging ways. In the Journal of Sex Research, lead researcher Jose Bauermeister, PhD, followed African-American teenagers from age 14 through the early years of adulthood to age 25. He was looking to find out if there were any risk factors that suggested an age difference in sex partners. Age an experience difference can lead to a greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

One key, he found, was work. Working environments for teenagers are often undersupervised, and place younger teens alongside older coworkers. While some part-time work is actually beneficial in terms of self-esteem, too many hours alongside the wrong coworkers can lead to an underage relationship.

Girls tends to date above their age from the study’s start age of 14 on. Boys stayed age-appropriate through high school, then continued to date high school-age girls after they had grown older. Dropping out and drinking alcohol also were risk factors for an age-inappropriate relationship.