So, there are two groups of boys at school. One group has one or more girl friends and the other has no girlfriends due to lack of charm or maybe just because they don't want any. However, the group with girlfriends always seem to score lower in their tests. They don't seem to work as effeciently, or get as good scores. Is this due to the fact that they have girlfriends?

I'm not saying all the guys who don't have girlfriends get high scores, either; some of them also get pretty lousy scores sometimes.

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    It is probably worse to focus your energy on your gf as opposed to your studies. Having said that, if you both study together, or help each other, it would be a positive thing. Having said both the things, this question is hard to experimentally verify for the reason that correlation does not suggest causation. Perhaps bad scores are the reason people look for relationships :) Cheers.
    – picakhu
    May 13, 2011 at 4:03
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    Have you considered something like "do romantic relationships have a negative impact on academic performance?" It's essentially the same thing you're asking, but in a more answerable format. May 13, 2011 at 4:12
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    @Monkey, I just edited directly, next time don't hesitate to clarify a question directly! :-)
    – Sklivvz
    May 13, 2011 at 8:26
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    There might be a correlation but not necessarily a causation, at least not in this direction. It might be the other way around: to be really smart is kind of "weird" for people around them, so they tend to get a girlfriend less often than "normal" people. May 13, 2011 at 13:14
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    "maybe just because they don't want any" - this claim is implausible and thus the myth is debunked.
    – user5341
    May 13, 2011 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


Yes (at least there are cross-sectional correlations back up your intuition)

Bukowski et al. (2002) found a negative link. Their study was cited 39 times, pointing to more acceptance in the scientific community in comparison to the National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse. You might want to go through the citing papers to find some information about the mechanism, the article is paywalled for me.

From their abstract:

The results showed that having a boyfriend/ girlfriend was related to poorer emotional and behavioral adjustment for those early adolescents who were unpopular among same-sex peers. For adolescents who were popular among same-sex peers, romantic involvement was not related to emotional and behavioral adjustment. Independently of same-sex peer acceptance, however, romantic involvement was negatively related to academic performance, albeit only for girls.

What does this say?

Well, it doesn't really give a hint for a causal relationship in either direction.
You can't (ethically and practically) do experimental random pairings of high school students, so the best we could hope for is natural experiments (looking at the time-lagged effects of getting in a relationship). Neyer & Asendorpf did that and found stable increases in conscientiousness and decreases in neuroticism (both of which could be good for academic performance). N&A had a student sample and they didn't assess academic performance, but I wanted to show an example of the research design, that would provide the best possible evidence.

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    Nothing here seems to measure academic performance. Jun 3, 2011 at 2:53
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    @Dav I clarified and bolded it for you.
    – Ruben
    Jun 3, 2011 at 10:13


Studies at Loyola University have found no statistically significant correlation between GPA and relationship status or sexual activity.

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    This answer would be much improved by some choice citations. :)
    – Kit Sunde
    May 20, 2011 at 11:37
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    isn't Loyola U a Jesuit school? That's bound to have at least some influence considering the topic of study.
    – user5341
    Jun 2, 2011 at 14:24
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    @DVK: if it did, I would have been less surprised if the answer had come back the other way -- in other words, I'd figure that a religious institution would have more vested interests in finding that students should postpone relationships until marriage is in sight in order to prevent fornication and the like. Then they'd be able to site the decline in GPA due to relationships/sex as the justification... but what they found goes the other way and doesn't provide them that ammunition. Would you concur?
    – Hendy
    Jun 3, 2011 at 14:47
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    @Hendy - not quite. My angle on this would be that as a religious school, the romantic/mating behavior of its students (both natural and due to school rules) are not very representative of a random student. But it's just a hunch as I don't know anything about Loyola U. specifically.
    – user5341
    Jun 3, 2011 at 15:48
  • @DVK: Ah. I could see that, and definitely read that comment differently than you intended. Good suggestion. Also, reading the links, there were only 75/80 students surveyed. Not a very big sample size.
    – Hendy
    Jun 3, 2011 at 15:54

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