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Perhaps even more alarmingly, it also found significant levels of abuse in these relationships.

At the end of the day, "it's better than saying they shouldn't date at all." "What is healthy is being in a group of boys and girls and transitioning from same-sex-only groups into groups in contact with the other sex," says Connolly.

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

This learning phenomenon seems to carry over to all teens, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Although defined gay identity is not typical until later adolescence or early adulthood, "interacting with the opposite sex at this age can be part of the gay youth's attempts to resolve his or her identity questions," says Connolly.

"Kids at this age want relationships that are fun, and that can bring them together to learn about boys and girls. Unlike someone in their 30s, young teens want to experience dating from a much less committed and long-term perspective.

Despite the lack of commitments, kids are still gaining something from the experience - they are learning.

More and more parents are faced with this dilemma today.

This survey also found that sex is considered a large part of dating by teens.

Abuse has been found to increase with sex at a young age.

In another study Connolly found that 15% of teens are in dating relationships that are recurrently aggressive and that the violence tends to increase in a second relationship.

The study also found that three out of four young teens have never sexually touched or been touched above or below the waist.