Teens dating young older adults
For her, they were positive experiences -- she even saw the potential for marriage with some of the men.
For many women, though, these relationships look very different in hindsight.
"True love can be ageless," declared actor Doug Hutchison, 51, an actor who starred in the television series "Lost," when he announced his May marriage to Courtney Alexis Stodden, a 16-year-old beauty pageant queen turned aspiring country star. Kelly's rumored romance with 15-year-old singer Aaliyah to rocker Ted Nugent falling for 17-year-old Pele Massa in 1978 -- and becoming her legal guardian because she was too young to marry him -- relationships between older men and younger girls never fail to make us squirm. states, a person can't legally consent to sex until age 17, and individuals under 18 years old must have a parent's permission to marry in all states except Nebraska, where the legal marriage age is 19. Lou Ann Brizendine, who has written about brain development in males and females, says that girls' brains are as much as two years ahead of boys' during puberty and that boys may not even catch up to girls until late adolescence or their early 20s, so a few year between partners can -- and often does -- make for a compatible match.
Judy Prays, a 24-year-old graduate student living in Atlanta, dated older men from the time she was 16 -- intentionally. "I thought it was so romantic and glamorous and adventurous," she said. I was interested in the other person being in control of everything, being the smarter one, the stronger one.
In 1999, Lynn Philips conducted a well-known study for Planned Parenthood in which she interviewed teenage girls mostly between the ages of 14 to 17 who were involved with men ages 21 to 29.
Philips, a social and developmental psychologist and professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts, also interviewed adult women who had engaged in similar relationships when they were teens.
Although adolescents know right from wrong and understand consequences, she explained, "their ability to carefully consider these matters is somewhat limited relative to adults." Sexual relationships and marriages between adult men and adolescent girls have very been common historically and continue to be in many other cultures.
But experts seem to agree that in contemporary American society the potential harm to a young woman depends on both on her age and how big the age gap is with her partner.
Lee Cohen, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who is based in New York.