What Percent of High-School Relationships Last? | Statistics and Facts

What Percent of High-School Relationships Last?

Have you ever wondered what percentage of high school relationships actually last after graduation? In this article, we will explore the statistics and facts surrounding high-school relationships. We will delve into the pros and cons of being in a relationship during adolescence and examine the reasons why many of these relationships fail.

High-School Relationships Statistics

  • 63% of high-schoolers have been on at least one date before they reach 12th grade.
  • 57% of teenagers between 12 and 17 years old are regularly dating, and a third of them have a steady partner, according to L. Brannon’s research in ‘Gender: Psychological Perspectives’.
  • 71% of relationships are with a person of the opposite sex.
  • Steady romantic relationships in high school typically last 6 months for 16-year-olds and about a year for 17 and 18-year-olds.
  • According to research, a substantial portion of experiences from high-school dating (conflict-solving skills, communication patterns, etc.) are brought to a subsequent marriage.

Relationships in High-School

Having Relationships in High-School: Pros and Cons

In high school, teenagers learn to build interpersonal relationships with their peers and romantic partners. For some, falling in love plays a leading role in understanding the surrounding world and oneself.

Dating in high school can provide valuable lessons on communication, problem-solving, and navigating the complexities of a relationship. Typical teenage relationships involve going out, spending time together, resolving conflicts, and occasionally experiencing breakups.

While these experiences are an integral part of life, high-school dating can have different effects on individuals. Let’s explore some advantages and disadvantages of relationships between teenagers.

Advantages of a relationship in high school:

  • Increases self-esteem
  • Improves social status
  • Gives support and companionship
  • Contributes to the development of sexuality
  • Plants the seeds of self-sufficiency and independence from parents
  • Helps better understand what partner to look for in the future

Disadvantages of a relationship in high school:

  • Increased chances of stress and depression
  • Risk of alcohol use and smoking
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Risk of teen pregnancy (16.7% of teenagers got pregnant in 2019, according to cdc.gov)
  • Increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Possible dating violence and aggression (occurs in 25% of women and 15% of men before they reach 18)
  • Harmful weight control to attract the romantic partner, etc.

High-School Relationships Fail

How Many High-School Relationships Last Through Adulthood?

Many people believe that the primary function of relationships in high school is to learn how to express feelings and communicate with a potential romantic partner. Unfortunately, after teenagers grow up and enter adult life, most leave their first love in the past.

However, some high-school couples do stay together and even get married before they come of age. Unfortunately, statistics show that early marriage has a higher risk of ending in divorce.

According to a CDC.gov report, for marriages at the age of 18 years and younger, the probability of breaking up is 10% after one year of marriage. The likelihood of divorce increases to 29% for couples who stay married for more than five years.

In comparison, 6% of spouses who marry at 20-25 years get divorced after one year of living as a family, and 17% after five years.

Several notable factors influence the length of marriage among teenagers (15-19-year-olds):

Family living arrangements:

Men and women who got married in their teen years have a higher chance (58%) of making their union last if they lived with both parents until at least 14 years of age. Other living arrangements (single or stepparents, or no parents) decrease the chances to 38%.


Traditionally, Whites and Asians have the highest marriage rates. The Hispanic population closely follows them. For example, in 2018, there were 59% marriages among Asian people, 54% among Whites, and 48% among Hispanics. Conversely, the black population has the lowest marriage rate – 39%, and the highest divorce rate.


Among Catholics, the probability that a marriage will last at least 20 years is 53%. For Protestants, this figure is 50%, while other religions have a 65% probability. The lowest likelihood of a marriage surviving 20 years is with people without a religion – 43%.

Marriage Rate Among Teenagers

In the United States, teenagers were more prone to marriage at the end of the 20th century than they are now. According to statistics, 19.8% of teenagers (aged 15-17) were married in 1980. However, this trend began to slow down in 1990.

The average age at first marriage has increased from 24 for women and 26 for men in 1990 to 28 and 31 in 2020.

Marriage Rate Among Teenagers

This increase can be connected to social trends, believes Catherine Corrigall-Brown, a professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. The central idea of modern American society is freedom of choice and breaking previously established behavior patterns.

“Americans cherish the ability to act on their own as individuals – to succeed or fail on their terms,” Professor Corrigall-Brown writes. However, a person “can never act completely free of their social context,” she adds. So, in the end, every individual follows social trends, whether they realize it or not. And the social trend is getting married later in life. That’s why, these days, the probability of marriage among 18-year-olds and younger is very low.

According to a CDC.gov report, only 2% of women and 6% of men get married at this age.

How Long Do High-School Relationships Last?

The most livable romantic relationships occur closer to graduation and are associated with higher emotional support between the partners compared to bonds formed at earlier stages.

If romantically involved adolescents can describe their union as exclusive and supportive on all levels, they are more likely to add to the small percentage of high school relationships that last through college.

Victor W. Harris, a professor of Community Studies at the University of Florida, says that “early romantic relationships in middle school tend to focus on physical attraction.” As for high-school relationships, they “focus more on commitment and intimacy.”

In his article about dating during adolescence published in the Social History of the American Family, he states that the average high school relationship length increases with age and maturity and can reach one year and longer for some couples.

The duration of these early romantic interests depends on factors such as:

  • The attitudes towards dating, marriage, and having children.
  • Beliefs about sex.
  • Influence of media and peers.
  • The families that teenagers lived in, etc.

More mature high-schoolers tend to form more enduring relationships, which are “rooted in strong emotional bonds, resembling the couple relationships of adulthood,” write J.A. Connolly and C. McIsaac in their article ‘Romantic relationship in adolescence.’ Thus, such unions are stable and often last after graduation from high school.

What Percent of High-School Couples Get Married?

Most high-school couples split up during school or shortly after graduation. Typically, the average length of high-school relationships ranges from a few months to a year. Only a tiny percentage of these relationships survive and lead to marriage.

The statistics on marrying a high school sweetheart are scarce because most people don’t contemplate marriage until they graduate. Since weddings in the teenage years are extremely rare (as mentioned before, only 2% of women and 6% of men get married at this age), the percentage of people who marry their high school sweetheart is also very low.

However, research on late adolescent relationships by R.K. Raley and colleagues suggests that youth engaging in serious romantic relationships in high school are more likely to get married or start cohabiting by the age of 25.

Why Do So Many High-School Relationships Fail?

The relationship between teenagers in high school is only vaguely similar to that of adult couples. Teenagers do not yet face serious problems. They live in a kind of greenhouse conditions. They don’t need to earn money, rent a house, or pay taxes and mortgage.

Plus, teenage couples are far from experiencing the same problems that an average American couple has in adulthood. Instead, the most prominent issues are lying or cheating, jealousy, bad relationships with family or friends, etc.

High-School Relationships Fail

The real challenge comes when these couples face reality after graduation. However, if they can cope with change and adjust to new circumstances, there is a good chance that the relationship will last for a long time.

Let’s take a look at the challenges and situations that cause high school sweethearts to break up.

Self-identity crisis:

The search for identity is a central task of adolescence, according to Jane Kroger, Ph.D., a researcher of identity issues. Teenagers must define their role in society and understand their interests and abilities that will help them make the right choices in different situations.

Many 17-year-olds struggle to find their own identity and simultaneously maintain their romantic relationships, as stated by Seiffge-Krenke and colleagues in their research. The inability to balance the search for self-identity and intimacy often leads to a crisis in the relationship.

In addition, since the search for oneself continues in early adulthood, people often change their views on how their lives should look and what kind of partner they should be around.

Changed perception of romantic relationships:

It’s no secret that priorities can alter with age. At each life stage, both men and women have a particular goal to accomplish. For example, adolescents are primarily interested in excitement, says Art Markman, Ph.D., in his article for Psychology Today.

Teenagers are not yet able to fully accept each other the way they do at an older age. For the most part, they are excited about their new emotions and experiences.

As a person gets older, they start seeking other benefits that a relationship can provide. This includes emotional support, financial stability, the possibility of creating a family, etc.

If the partners see the further development of their relationship differently (one wants to cohabit while the other wants to get married), such couples eventually break up.

Long-distance relationships:

Often, after high-school graduation, one or both partners go to colleges located in different states. Long-distance relationships are pretty common – 30-40% of university students date someone outside their close geographical area.

But not everyone can cope with the feelings of mistrust and jealousy that arise during a long separation. One partner may begin to question the other’s loyalty. If nothing changes, the couple may split up permanently.

Less time to see each other:

The heavy course load at the university can be one of the reasons the couple doesn’t date as often as they used to during high school. Depending on the number of college courses, the time spent in class can vary from 12 to 18 hours a week.

Less time to see each other

While classes can take up a lot of time, let’s not forget about homework, a part-time job, or volunteering. On average, a college student spends an extra 15-17 hours per week doing studies outside the classroom. Some work part-time for 20 hours, and others engage in social work for 20-30 hours. So it’s no wonder that most students put aside dating and concentrate on studying.


High-school relationships come with various stereotypes, including the belief that relationships formed immediately after graduation are doomed to failure. However, as we have seen from the statistics provided in this article, this is not always the case.

While age and experience certainly play an essential role in building a strong union, many other factors influence the duration of a relationship. High-school couples can prove to be very strong if their relationships are built on commitment, intimacy, and emotional support.