Do teenagers who skip school or flunk their tests indulge in risky sexual behavior? They do, according to new research from the University of Indiana that was based on over 80,000 actual diary entries written by 14- to 17-year-old girls.

The findings are intuitive, but they still provide a perspective into the lives of teenagers and how they regard education and their sexual lives. The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is based on a 10-year study of the development of 387 teenage girls' romantic/sexual relationships and sexual behavior.

"This study demonstrates that young women's weekday reports of skipping school and failing a test were significantly linked to more frequent vaginal sex, less frequent condom use, and different sexual emotions, on that same day," said lead author Dr. Devon J. Hensel in a statement. Previous studies have shown a relationship between sex abstinence and better academic achievement in teenagers. But these studies were a retrospective analysis and do not reflect the day-to-day feelings of the teenagers as the current study does.

"The strength of using multiple daily reports is that allows us a more ecologically valid, or 'real world,' look at how young women's academic and romantic behaviors are linked from one day to the next. Rather than relying on reports about what happened in the past, we have a unique view of events as they unfold," said Hensel, who is an assistant research professor of pediatrics in the Section of Adolescent Medicine at the IU School of Medicine and an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

According to Hensel, as most teenagers with raging hormones are preoccupied with sex, they view school as a perfect venue to meet and interact with their partners. "Many of the same skills underlying academic outcomes — such as communication, emotional awareness, and behavior regulation — are also linked to what happens in young women's relationships. Using this idea, we hypothesized that what happened academically during a given school day would impact how an adolescent felt about her romantic partner, and the behaviors she engaged in with that partner."

Academic behaviors analyzed were skipping school and failing a test; sexual behaviors were vaginal sex and condom use; and emotions involved positive mood, negative mood, feeling in love, sexual interest, partner support and partner negativity. The researchers found that vaginal sex was more frequent (13.5 percent vs. 5.4 percent) and condom use was less frequent (13.8 percent vs. 33.1 percent) on weekdays when school was skipped, as compared to weekdays when school was attended.

Results of a test had no impact on the frequency of sex. For example, incidents of vaginal sex did not vary if the diary author failed or did not fail a test (6.4 percent vs. 5.8 percent); but when sex did occur, condom use was less frequent when she failed a test (6.9 percent) compared to when she did not (27.1 percent).

Girls reported emotional or negative moods, heightened sexual interest, and feelings of love when they skipped school or failed a test, as compared to weekdays when neither of these events occurred. Skipping school was also associated with higher levels of partner support.

"Our findings raise the possibility that the emotional and behavioral experiences in young women's romantic and sexual relationships may impact her reaction to academic events, particularly if an event is more salient to her or to her partner," Hensel said. "For example, condom use might be lower after failing a test if a young woman feels supported and loved by her partner. Conversely, if a boyfriend pressures a young woman to skip school, that same pressure could influence her to eschew condom use when sex occurs."

The results of this research suggest how different areas in a teenager’s life impact her emotional and physical well-being, she said.

Source: Hensel DJ, Sorge BH. Adolescent Women's Daily Academic Behaviors, Sexual Behaviors, and Sexually Related Emotions. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2014.