All the best things in life are worth waiting for – and that includes love, according to a new study.
Researchers found that boys and girls who start dating too young are more likely to have behavioural problems than those who wait.
It's because pre-teens are not able to cope with the emotional strain of a relationship and going through the stress can have damaging effects.
They also discovered that children who start dating at the age of 11 are twice as likely to have unsafe sex, use alcohol and indulge in risky behaviours.
Those who waited for romance to blossom, by contrast, were typically aged around 14 and had no social or emotional difficulties as a result of their interactions.
Researchers at York University in Toronto monitored 698 students from 12 schools in the area between 1996 and 2003 to come to their conclusions.
The students were on average 11.8 years old at the start of the study and were given annual questionnaires about their love life.
Early daters began seeing somebody else aged, on average, 11.6 years, 'on-time daters' were typically 12.9 years and late bloomers were 14.9 years. Those in the early group made up 20 per cent of the participants, the middle group were the majority at 55 per cent and the late bloomers were 25 per cent.
The conclusion showed that the youngest daters were twice as likely to engage in abnormal behaviours as the other two groups such as picking fights and missing school.
The late developers, by contrast, had no adverse effects on their lives even though they followed a faster path once romance began.
The study also found that girls in the this group were typically 15.5 years old when they first started dating, older than the boys.
Writing in the Journal of Adolescence, the authors said their findings 'highlight the problems that are linked to early-starting romantic development'.
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