Trends Across Adolescence and Sociodemographic Correlates of the Age Gap Between Romantic Partners

Christine M. Flanigan, Bowling Green State University

Dating an older partner has been found to be a risk factor for early sex, nonuse of condoms, and STI diagnosis among adolescent girls. However, little is known about prevalence of older male/younger female relationships and risk factors for such relationships. For example, the few studies that have predicted dating an older partner typically look at a single relationship, not an adolescent’s dating history over time. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, waves 1-3, this paper examines trends in the age gap between dating partners across adolescence into young adulthood, using sociodemographic characteristics to predict both the average age gap in an individual’s relationships and also the amount of change across adolescence. Separate analyses also look at patterns of dating, e.g., those who always date older partners vs. those who always date same-aged partners.

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Presented in Session 163: Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health