Teen Boys Prefer Committed Relationships, Not Flings

Happy teen couple look at one another fondlyWe’ve all been led to believe that teenage boys are sex-crazed and uninterested in relationships, but popular wisdom isn’t always entirely accurate. A study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests that teenage boys seek close, intimate relationships rather than one-night stands.

Teenage Boys and Relationships

Researchers looked at 33 boys aged 14 to 16 who visited a community medical clinic. The boys were primarily African-American and from low-income homes. Researchers asked the teens open-ended questions about their feelings on sex, relationships, how their relationships progress, and how they choose partners. Most of the boys said that they wanted close relationships, and few emphasized sex as a primary relationship goal. The teens also said that they wanted close, trusting relationships and a partner upon whom they could depend.

Teen girls and their parents sometimes worry about boys trying to “trick” them into sex by feigning love or affection. Few participants admitted to engaging in this behavior, and the boys didn’t express boastful feelings about sexual conquests or their number of partners. Instead, many of the teens expressed anxiety about their limited knowledge of sex—even though the teens in the study began having sex at an earlier-than-average age for teens. 

This study helps confirm similar results from a 2007 study conducted by the State University of New York at Oswego that surveyed 105 economically and racially diverse male students in 10th grade.

Do Teen Boys Reject Monogamy as They Get Older?

Columbia University researchers note that the study conflicts with other research showing that older adolescent males prioritize sex, avoid intimacy, and objectify women. They point to the need for further research to evaluate how and why young teen boys who value intimacy evolve into older teens who prioritize sex. It may be that boys are socially influenced into adopting more typical “masculine” beliefs over the course of their adolescence. For those worried about teen boys’ obsession with sex, though, the study provides strong evidence that boys don’t start out with such an obsession.


  1. 16 Surprising Truths about Guys and Sex. (2014). Seventeen Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.seventeen.com/health/tips/teen-boys-and-sex#slide-1
  2. Adolescent Males Seek Intimacy and Close Relationships with the Opposite Sex.. (2014, July 15). Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Retrieved from http://www.mailman.columbia.edu/news/adolescent-males-seek-intimacy-and-close-relationships-opposite-sex
  3. Smiler, A. P. (2008). “I wanted to get to know her better”: adolescent boys’ dating motives, masculinity ideology, and sexual behavior. Journal of Adolescence, 31(1): 17–32.

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  • Bo

    July 20th, 2014 at 5:31 AM

    When I was in high school I was definitely looking for a one on one relationship, and I had no desire to play the field once I found that proverbial girl of my dreams. I didn’t understand why I had friends who didn’t like to commit and who liked to have a different date every night, and then I got to college and saw how the type of behavior that I enjoyed while dating was looked down on and I started to become a little more prone to dating around and seeing a lot of girls at one time. That isn’t really my natural inclination but it was kind of what was expected of me by frat brothers so I did it.

  • Cat

    July 20th, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    I think it’s a combination of peer/social expectations and a fear of getting hurt after having experienced some stinging rejections in later adolescence. Hiding one’s vulnerability to love and to women behind a wall of objectification and devaluation is the culturally-accepted explanation of male behavior. In their minds, it’s less risky to ask for sex than for love, even if they’re secretly hoping that a relationship might develop out of the sex, and in our culture, it’s better for a male’s reputation to be known for being horny than being “whipped.”

  • freda

    July 21st, 2014 at 4:25 AM

    Would you say that the older the boys get the more external factors take over and what they see as the message about what boys supposedly want is what they begin to emulate?

  • Macrae

    July 22nd, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    Boys are given the message form a pretty young age that you treat girls in a certain way and they start to emulate what they see on TV and in movies from a pretty young age as well.

    We need to be a little more thoughtful about the messages that we are giving to them, because the way things are going we are creating a group of young men who actually look down on women and think little of their feelings and emotions.

    There is nothing wrong with teaching them to be caring and to be okay with being one women kind of men. There is no need in all of the playing around. That is not what makes you a man.

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