Bill McCarthy and Teresa Casey's paper, "Love, Sex and Crime: Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Offending" published in the American Sociological Review
Many scholars are pessimistic about adolescent dating. They link it to increases in depression; inter-personal violence; conflict with parents; school failure; associations with delinquents; substance use; and offending. Yet, dating may have beneficial effects. Adolescent romantic love and the closeness it involves may fill a void between the weakening bond with parents and the onset of adult attachments. Thus, romantic love may discourage an array of negative outcomes, including involvement in crime. By contrast, adolescent sexual activity likely increases offending, in part by augmenting the strain relationships create. However, sex in close romantic relationships is likely less stressful and consequential for crime compared to sex in relationships characterized by weak emotional connections. We find evidence of these patterns in analyses of crime and substance use in the panel data from the nationally representative Adolescent Health Survey.