LOS ANGELES — There is good news for parents who worry that their teenagers’ sex lives are affecting their school performance: A provocative study has found that teens in committed relationships do no better or worse in school than those who do not have sex.
The same is not 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 yesterday at a meeting of the American Sociological Association in Atlanta, challenge to some extent assumptions that sexually active teens tend to do less well in school.
It is not so much whether a teen has sex that determines academic success, the researchers say, but the type of sexual relationship he or she is 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.
Last year, nearly half of high school students reported having had sexual intercourse, and 14 percent have had four or more partners, according to a federal survey released this summer.
For the study, sociologist Bill McCarthy of the University of California, Davis, and University of Minnesota sociologist Eric Grodsky analyzed surveys and transcripts from the largest national follow-up study of teens that began during the 1994-95 academic year. The researchers said not much has changed in the past decade in terms of attitudes toward teen sex.