We do a pretty good job, as parents, teachers and church leaders of teaching our Laurels and Priests about casual dating. We repeatedly instruct pre-missionaries to date in groups and to avoid going steady until after their missions. (See “Is Teenage Romance Harmless? Why do Adults Encourage It?”) We also give a great deal of counsel to returned missionaries. Once they return from their missions we encourage them to pair off and date exclusively.
Youth receive very little direction, however, about appropriate boy-girl relationships for 12 to 15 year-olds. Youth from 12 to 14 aren’t usually invited to our youth conferences or Especially for Youth activities. They don’t hear much about dating. As a result, our 12 to 15-year-olds often flounder, guess, and scramble for direction regarding their boy-girl relationships. Often times they copy older adolescents because they have no other paradigm to copy.