Here's a headline destined to ruin many a parent's Sunday:
Teen Sex Not Always Bad For School Performance
As if that wasn't enough, the Associated Press actually framed this as good news:
There's good news for parents who worry that their teenagers' sex lives are affecting their school performance: A provocative new study has found that teens in committed relationships do no better or worse in school than those who don't have sex.
After that cheery opening paragraph, things got a bit dicey, for the results of this University of California, Davis, study had little in common with the headline and lede:
The same isn't true for teens who "hook up." Researchers found that those who have casual flings get lower grades and have more school-related problems compared with those who abstain.
The findings, presented Sunday at a meeting of the American Sociological Association in Atlanta, challenge to some extent assumptions that sexually active teens tend to do poorer in school.
It's not so much whether a teen has sex that determines academic success, the researchers say, but the type of sexual relationship they're engaged in. Teens in serious relationships may find social and emotional support in their sex partners, reducing their anxiety and stress levels in life and in school.
"This should give some comfort to parents who may be concerned that their teenage son or daughter is dating," said sociologist Peggy Giordano of Bowling Green State University, who had no role in the research. Teen sex is "not going to derail their educational trajectories," she said.
Feeling comfortable parents?
Well, don't be, because the actual results of this study were not what the AP led on:
Compared with virgins, teens who have casual sex had lower GPAs, cared less about school and experienced more problems in school. For example, female teens who have flings had GPAs that were 0.16 points lower than abstinent teens. Male teens who have casual sex had GPAs that were 0.30 points lower than those who do not have sex. Teens who hook up also were at greater risk of being suspended or expelled and had lower odds of expecting to go to college.
Teens who have sex - whether it's a serious or casual relationship - were at higher risk of being truant and dropping out compared with teens who don't have sex.
Add it all up, and it seems this study makes a strong case for teenage abstinence - but you certainly wouldn't know that from the headline and opening paragraph, would you?