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This study examined dating-stage and developmental-contextual models of romantic relationships during early adolescence. Same-gender friendships, affiliation with mixed-gender groups, dating, and romantic relationships were investigated in a sample of 1,284 young adolescents of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds. Data were collected cross-sectionally in Grades 5 through 8, as well as longitudinally in the fall and spring of an academic year. Consistent with a stage model, affiliation with mixed-gender groups and dating were qualitatively distinct activities that were sequentially organized and facilitated the progression from same-gender friendships to dyadic romantic relationships. The results also provide insights on how the developmental context may alter stage pathways: Dating activities were incorporated with mixed-gender affiliations, group-based romantic stages showed more stability than other stages, and the ethnocultural context influenced romantic timing. Finally, results indicated that participation in romantic activities heightened adolescents' future interest in having a romantic relationship.