But by the same token, a tough, aggressive peer group can have a negative influence, such as tolerating dating violence.
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Connolly, who has two adolescent daughters of her own, says that group dating is growing in popularity everywhere, including China and India.
The peer group provides checks and balances, along with feedback about what’s OK and what’s not, so kids are less likely to get out of their depth — especially in terms of conflict, expectations for behaviour and sex.
Long gone is the tradition where a boy phones a girl on Tuesday to ask her out for Saturday, picks her up at her house, meets the parents, pays for dinner and a show, and sees her home.
“That’s just in the movies,” says Brett, 14, of Aurora, Ont.
And here’s how that went: Boy: “Do you wanna go out?
” Catherine: “OK.” The two Toronto-area teens have been going out since last April, although rarely on their own.
These types of short-lived pairings — relationships in name only — jump in numbers by grades six and seven, when alcohol increasingly becomes part of many parties.