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Love Hurts (in More Ways Than One): Specificity of Psychological Symptoms as Predictors and Consequences of Romantic Activity Among Early Adolescent Girls


  • The project described was supported by grants F31MH082545 (awarded to Lisa Starr) and R01 MH063904 (awarded to Joanne Davila) from the National Institute of Mental Health and by funds from Stony Brook University.

  • The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health.

  • We thank Craig Colder for providing statistical consultation.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Lisa Starr, Department of Psychology, UCLA, 1285 Franz Hall, Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563; e-mail:



Research has linked adolescent romantic and sexual activities to depressive symptoms. The current study examines whether such activities are uniquely linked to depressive symptoms versus symptoms of other disorders (including anxiety, externalizing, and eating disorders), and whether co-occurring symptoms more precisely account for the association between depressive symptoms and romantic involvement.


Early adolescent girls (N = 83; mean age = 13.45) participated in baseline and 1-year follow up data collection.


Romantic (i.e., dating and sexual) activities were longitudinally related to numerous types of symptoms. The association between depressive symptoms and romantic variables remained when considering co-occurring symptoms. Girls with more comorbid disorders reported more romantic activities.


Results suggest that the maladaptive consequences and precipitants of adolescent romantic activities extend beyond depression, but also imply that this association is not secondary to comorbid symptoms. Future work should clarify causal pathways.