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Dating is only one of many possible ways to develop self-esteem.
"Kids at this age want relationships that are fun, and that can bring them together to learn about boys and girls. Unlike someone in their 30s, young teens want to experience dating from a much less committed and long-term perspective.
In another study Connolly found that 15% of teens are in dating relationships that are recurrently aggressive and that the violence tends to increase in a second relationship.
"If you see physical bruises, it is quite serious abuse, but more often it is much more minor." Pushing, shoving, aggressive, and controlling behaviour are more common.
Connolly points to the reality that few kids actually rush onto the dating scene.
Instead, they spend time in casual group contexts where boys and girls are together.
Parents should always be on the lookout for signs of abuse, especially if their child is having sex.
These behaviors are not healthy at this age and carry both behavioural and physical risks, emphasizes Connolly.
Putting limits on what kids can do gives them time to understand in a more relaxed and informal setting, while giving them the confidence and skills they will need to move away from group settings.
Like adults, most kids think their peers are having more sex than they actually are.
Although defined gay identity is not typical until later adolescence or early adulthood, "interacting with the opposite sex at this age can be part of the gay youth's attempts to resolve his or her identity questions," says Connolly.
"Parents, educators, and adolescents can benefit from knowing that light sexual behaviours can be considered normal at this time, whereas heavy sexual behavior, especially intercourse, is not," says Connolly.