“Girls, definitely, tell me that they feel like they have to do the sexual requests, they have to honor the sexual requests of their boyfriends, or they will get dumped. And there are a lot of girls that are feeling pressure that way.”
– Dr. Nancy McGarrah, Ph.D., licensed psychologist
Typically, parents worry when their daughters begin dating, but they really worry when their daughter goes out with an older boy. According to a recent study, parents have good reason to be concerned.
Sarah is 19 and her boyfriend is 22.
“Because I am dating an older guy … I am more open to alcohol, just because I can ask him, ‘Hey, can you go to the store and buy me something?’” says Sarah Lim, 19.
She says another risk of dating an older guy is being pressured into having sex.
“I think a lot of guys, especially in high school, will go for younger girls just because they’ll give it up, you know,” says Lim.
In fact, according to a study by the non-profit group Child Trends, one in five girls has dated a boy at least three years older than she, and 10 percent say they’ve had sex with an older boy before they turned 16.
“Girls, definitely, tell me that they feel like they have to do the sexual requests, they have to honor the sexual requests of their boyfriends, or they will get dumped. And there are a lot of girls that are feeling pressure that way,” says Dr. Nancy McGarrah, Ph.D., licensed psychologist.
What’s more, according to the study, girls who date older guys are less likely to use protection, more likely to become pregnant, and twice as likely to acquire a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
“Frequently, the younger girl is naïve. Sometimes she doesn’t have the assertiveness to stand up for herself and demand that a condom be used,” says McGarrah.
“When guys are older…girls will trust them. ‘Oh, he knows what he’s talking about. He has more experience,’” says Lim.
Experts say parents need to set ground rules, such as they can only date someone one grade above or below, and only go on group dates until they’re 16. And if your daughter argues, experts say:
“Explain to them that you trust them and you know that they are a mature person, but at the same time there are different levels of maturity. And just like they are not ready to get married, they are not ready to have babies, they are also not ready to be in relationships with people significantly older than they are,” says McGarrah.
Tips for Parents
- When a boyfriend or girlfriend uses verbal insults, mean language, nasty putdowns, gets physical by hitting or slapping, or forces someone into sexual activity, it’s an important warning sign of verbal, emotional or physical abuse. Ask yourself, does my boyfriend or girlfriend: (Nemours Foundation)
- Get angry when I don’t drop everything for him or her?
- Criticize the way I look or dress, and say I’ll never be able to find anyone else who would date me?
- Keep me from seeing friends or from talking to any other guys or girls?
- Want me to quit an activity, even though I love it?
- Ever raise a hand when angry, like he or she is about to hit me?
- Try to force me to go further sexually than I want to?
- Hopefully, you and your significant other are treating each other well. Not sure if that’s the case? Take a step back from the dizzying sensation of being swept off your feet and think about whether your relationship has these qualities:
- Mutual respect. Does he or she “get” how cool you are and why? The key is that your BF or GF is into you for who you are — for your personality, great sense of humor, love of the same movies, commitment to sports or the arts, etc. Does your partner listen when you say you’re not comfortable doing something and then back off right away? Respect in a relationship means that each person values who the other is — and would never challenge the other person’s boundaries. (Nemours Foundation)
- Trust. You’re talking with a guy from French class and your boyfriend walks by. Does he completely lose his cool or keep walking because he knows you’d never cheat on him? It’s okay to get a little jealous sometimes — jealousy is a natural emotion. But how a person reacts when feeling jealous is what matters. There’s no way you can have a healthy relationship if you don’t trust each other. (Nemours Foundation)
- Support. It’s not just in bad times that your partner should support you. Some people are great when your whole world is falling apart, but can’t take being there when things are going right (and vice versa). In a healthy relationship, your significant other is there with a shoulder to cry on when you find out your parents are getting divorced and to celebrate with you when you get the lead in a play. (Nemours Foundation)
- Good communication. You’ve probably heard lots of stuff about how men and women don’t seem to speak the same language. We all know how many different meanings the little phrase “no, nothing’s wrong” can have, depending on who’s saying it! But what’s important is to ask if you’re not sure what he or she means, and speak honestly and openly so that the miscommunication is avoided in the first place. (Nemours Foundation)
- Think about the qualities you value in a friendship and see how they match up with the ingredients of a healthy relationship. Work on developing those good qualities in yourself — they make you a lot more attractive to others. (Nemours Foundation)
- Nemours Foundation