How Does Pressure from School Affect Teen Relationships?


Winter is always a stressful time for students, with the end of the semester and final exams. However, it’s an especially hard time for graduating seniors, who also have to keep in mind their soon-to-be-due application deadlines. During these stressful months, there is a theory among high school students and alumni that short-term relationships increase, contributing to what is known as ‘hookup culture.’ Even year-round, high schoolers see trends of long-term relationships decreasing in exchange for hookups or less committal relationships.

In a voluntary questionnaire carried out on Instagram, many students offered their opinions regarding the question “Does school pressure promote hookup culture?” 

Makiyah Williams, a senior in Academic Choice (AC), weighed in on the issue. “You rarely hear or see people in long-lasting relationships compared to hookups, which is literally becoming the norm now,” she said. She thought that this was unfortunate, because hookups take away from “actual genuine relationships developing.”

Emily Sidharta, a senior in the Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS), said that it wasn’t “school [that causes] casual hookups,” and that it actually came down to “friend and peer pressure.” 

Sidharta emphasized that this pressure to engage in hookup culture isn’t a universal experience amongst students, and evidently comes down more to particular circumstances such as friend groups and pressure from classmates.

AC senior Madi Moore said that society, rather than school, causes hookup culture amongst teens. She said she wasn’t sure that “school added more pressure for this stuff.”

Moore also said that it came down more to personal experiences and societal views than innate pressure from school itself. 

Other students who responded anonymously on social media concluded that at times, pressures in school have contributed to the decrease in more formal relationships amongst students, due in part to the academic workload, the pressures of high school (and upcoming college in seniors’ cases), extracurricular activities, and for some, even their jobs.

Roberto Ocampo, a junior in AC, said that he disagreed with the theory and that he “did not see how [pressure] could affect people’s desires to have relationships.” He later mentioned that he thought it came down more to “the stress brought upon students [by school]” that led to making it “harder for relationships to form.” 

“People [have] other things to worry about and aren’t focused too much on that,” he said. 

Jonah Shick, a senior, believed that people were “scared to try and commit to new things” in this generation. However, he wasn’t sure if it was “school, social media, society, or just [our generation] to blame” for this state of mind on this subject. 

In this generation, high school students have had to face immense obstacles. According to Mental Health America, “15.08% of youth experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, a 1.24% increase from last year’s dataset. In the bottom-ranked states, up to 19% of youth ages 12-17 experienced major depression.” 

In addition to the national mental health crisis, social media, societal expectations, and different goals, amongst other things, have led to the decrease in formal relationships between some teenagers in exchange for other types of relations that are often more casual.

Along with the drop in romantic relationships, however, comes a potential hope. The younger generation seems more open to discussing the mental health struggles that are becoming increasingly pervasive, which is a critical first step to understanding their wider social impact.