The early beginning of boy-girl relationships and the postponement of marriage
until in the late teens or twenties contribute to the emergence of informal relationships
that provide an outlet for the sex interests of youth. The date and the relationship are
special patterns within adolescent culture-vital and significant patterns.
The term dating is from an earlier period in youth culture; the term relationship connotes something even more informal, "a process in which two people (usually a boy and a girl) jointly participate in fulfilling one another's desires.
This usually entails sexual activities and other modes of communication that suit the personalities and circumstances of the two partners (telephoning, doing homework together, attending parties together, traveling together)" (Sorensen, 1973, p. 113).
The terms "relationship" and "dating" are essentially treated as synonyms throughout our discussion of adolescent intimate encounters. We also use them together, as in "dating relationship." Especially in middle-class families, parents teach their children-particularly their boys-that success is important and can only be gained through education and a good position.
If dating should lead to early marriage and a child, manipulation of the environment would be manifestly restricted. The boy may be virtually forced to quit school and go to work to support his dependents. Aim inhibition is thus considered to be a vital prerequisite for the success-oriented boy.
The boy learns to value the dating encounter in which his desire for intimacy and sex can be met without involving a serious, long-range commitment. The desire to avoid commitment is not exclusively that of the boy. Many girls now feel the same way about serious commitments and about early marriage (Sorensen, 1973).
A common age for beginning paired dating is fourteen for girls and fourteen or fifteen for boys (Douvan and Adelson, 1966; Lowrie, 1951; Wolford, 1948; Bardis, 1960; Sorensen, 1973). Adolescent boys usually date girls their own age or a year or two younger. Only a few date older girls.
Because of this pattern, very few high school boys are dating other than high school girls, while many and sometimes the majority of high school girls, especially juniors and seniors, are dating out-of-school boys. A dating relationship can involve being together on a weekly, twice-weekly, or daily basis.
Going steady in our high school meant that you were with your steady four or five nights out of the week, usually at the girl's house. Young teenagers' relationship problems are often of a social rather than a sexual nature. Of ninth and tenth grade boys, for instance, Remmers (1957, p. 66-67) found that a quarter hadn't learned how to keep girls interested in them.
Forty-one percent didn't have a girlfriend, 48 percent reported that they seldom had dates, 34 percent were bashful about asking girls for dates, and 26 percent didn't know how to ask for a date.
What to do on a date baffled fully 20 percent, and nearly as many asked, "What are good manners on a date?" Girls had such dating problems as these: 39 percent were unhappy because they seldom had dates, and 30 percent didn't have a boyfriend, "I'm not popular with boys," complained 23 percent, and 33% didn't know how to keep boys interested in them. At the other end of the scale, 36 percent asked, "How can I refuse a date politely?" Many adolescents feel that they are "not ready" for an intimate relationship with someone of the other sex (Sorensen, 1973, p. 39).