"Based on 29 years of practice," Lee added, "I don't think you could be that mature at 17. Mani Pavuluri, director of the Pediatric Brain Research and Intervention Center and professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois Chicago, teenage brains are still in the process of developing until age 19 or 20.
Before that, teens' "ability to consider and use judgment is still maturing," Pavuluri said, adding that peer pressure can further impact the impulsiveness of teenagers' choices.
I was interested in letting them drive." Prays said she never felt any of the men she dated were manipulating her and added that sex was not the focus.
She argued that these relationships are too harshly criticized.
"The irony is they find out after the fact that these men were 'sowing their wild oats' with them." Older women interviewed about the relationships they had as teens felt quite differently.
"They had very little good to say at all when they were older: many were angry, really angry," Philips said.
As the age gap increases, Manlove explained, the likelihood of using contraceptives decreases.
A few weeks later, ' June 16th Vows column featured the wedding of Christopher Cox, 32, the grandson of Richard Nixon and former campaign aid to John Mc Cain, to Andrea Catsimatidis, whom he met when she was a senior at an Upper East Side high school. This squeamishness is understandable: Hutchison is nearly old enough to be Stodden's grandfather. Of course, men have paired up with younger women -- often much younger women -- for all of human history. Marriage aside, the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that a significant number of girls lose their virginity to older partners.For her, they were positive experiences -- she even saw the potential for marriage with some of the men.For many women, though, these relationships look very different in hindsight.Lee Cohen, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who is based in New York."It's probably not healthy, or not the most 'normal' relationship.There can be physical consequences for young women in these sexual relationships, too.Child Trends, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.Some 16 percent of girls had sex with male partners who were 4-6 years older and 11 percent had partners that were 7 or more years older.According to the NCHS's William Mosher, the average age for first-time sex for women is between 16 and 17.While several psychiatrists cautioned against judging relationships like Cox and Catsimatidis' without knowing the specifics and what each partner is bringing to the table psychologically, studies show that there can be long-term emotional repercussions for teen girls who have sex with older men. Ann Meier, a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, studied data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and found that compared to teen girls with a same-aged partner, girls in 7th through 12th grades who had sex with a partner more than one year older had higher levels of subsequent depression and lower levels of self-esteem."If they're with a male who has more power and status," because he is older, "this might make it harder for young women to say, 'No I don’t want to have sex,'" Meier said.