Sexual relationships and marriages between adult men and adolescent girls have very been common historically and continue to be in many other cultures.

Most Of Us Are Trying To Date 'Out Of Our League,' New Study Suggests

But experts seem to agree that in contemporary American society the potential harm to a young woman depends on both on her age and how big the age gap is with her partner. 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.

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There can be physical consequences for young women in these sexual relationships, too. Child Trends, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.

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As the age gap increases, Manlove explained, the likelihood of using contraceptives decreases. Judy Prays, a year-old graduate student living in Atlanta, dated older men from the time she was 16 -- intentionally.

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To this day, she said, she has no regrets. I was interested in the other person being in control of everything, being the smarter one, the stronger one.

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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. For her, they were positive experiences -- she even saw the potential for marriage with some of the men.

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For many women, though, these relationships look very different in hindsight. In , Lynn Philips conducted a well-known study for Planned Parenthood in which she interviewed teenage girls mostly between the ages of 14 to 17 who were involved with men ages 21 to Philips, a social and developmental psychologist and professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts, also interviewed adult women who had engaged in similar relationships when they were teens.

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The teenagers didn't believe they were being exploited, and no one reported feeling like a victim. Among the perceived benefits of their relationships were admiration from their peers and their partner's material assets. The girls stressed the emotional pluses even more, saying that their older partners were more considerate of their feelings and made them feel special. They believed their partners would be more faithful than boys their own age because older men were finished "sowing their oats.

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