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There is interest, but they are not coupled up, which is normal.

Kids can gain a lot from being in healthy supportive relationships; it adds to their sense of competence and self esteem.

Groups can offer a safe, protective way for kids to learn.

But at the same time, parents need to discuss not going too far too fast.

Instead, they spend time in casual group contexts where boys and girls are together.

"Dating can be exciting and high energy but [generally] kids tend to prevent each other from becoming too intimate in those situations." Despite the statistics, there are some adolescents who become "couples" and engage in "heavy activities" such as petting or actual intercourse.

These behaviors are not healthy at this age and carry both behavioural and physical risks, emphasizes Connolly.

"Even in middle school studies, we have seen that abuse and aggression can occur.

It can happen out of the blue for a kid," Connolly says.

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