7 p.m. Loud cries, doors banging, feet hammering quickly downstairs. A typical scene: my fourteen-year-old next door neighbor is having a row with her father. This happens every day and the reason is not that the father and the daughter do not get along well – they deeply love each other. The reason is very simple: the girl is now going out with her first boyfriend and her father is sure that she is too young to date. But what is the age when dating is appropriate?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is far from being a clear-cut and universal truth. Parents and children, for instance, have very different viewpoints. When youths are absolutely sure that they are quite capable of making important decisions about their future at fourteen, parents can hardly accept it even when their children are seventeen. Apart from personal ideas, there are also cultural and religious concerns, which must be taken into account. For example, in many northern countries young people tend to start dating later than in southern ones. And in the Middle Asia you can hardly imagine young people dating in general, as the morals are traditionally very strong in Muslim countries.

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So, what should we take into account when we define the age for dating? I believe that the only real criterion is the maturity of the person himself/herself. If this person is responsible, keeps his/her promises, knows about the possibility of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and realizes that the loss of virginity is a once-in-a-life-time experience, which can have important outcomes, then fourteen is probably the right age. However, if the person is immature and can hardly imagine the consequences, than even the age of twenty-one will be too early.