It’s pretty common to date someone who’s a couple years older or younger than you, and in lots of cases the age difference is no big deal.
Sometimes maturity levels match, even when ages don’t. That said, there are some things that might be a good idea to consider before getting involved with someone where there’s a big age difference.
Why age is more than a number
Age may seem like just a number, especially when there are only a few years between you and the person you’re dating. But things like expectations, priorities, and general interests can change quickly throughout your teen years (compare who you were four years ago to who you are now: big difference, right?).
Here are some of the things that can affect relationships
where there is a big age difference:
Especially if there’s a big age difference between you, or if you’re at different stages of life (like if one of you is in high school and the other person is in college or university or working) there might be a power difference between the two of you. The older person might speak for the younger person or take a bigger role in making decisions about activities. On the flip side, the younger person might find it more difficult to voice their opinion, especially when it comes to their worries or concerns about things in the relationship. Of course, there’s more to power than just age. Other factors like a person’s gender, race and economic background can also play a role in relationship dynamics.
A big part of feeling good about your sexuality is being able to explore it at your own pace. When there’s a difference in age, it’s more likely that one person will be more ready to do things that the other person feels nervous about. That means that the younger person might feel pressure to have sex (or do other things), which is never OK.
Another reason to take the age issue seriously is the legal stuff attached to it. In Canada, there are laws that protect young people from what’s known as sexual exploitation. Basically, the law is written so that it’s legal for teens that are close in age to be sexual with each other. Things can get murky, though, for teens that are farther apart in age. Even if the younger person agrees to have sex, which is called giving consent, the older person can still be criminally charged.
Kids Help Phone can’t provide legal advice, but you are welcome to contact us if you want to talk about any concerns or questions you have about dating someone older or younger. Counsellors are available 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868. You can also write to us at
through Live Chat.
Dating someone much older
When the age difference is more than a few years, you need to be very careful.
Beyond the physical and emotional issues, there are major legal implications to dating someone much older when you’re a teen. For example, it is against the law for a fifteen year old to be sexual with someone older than 20, and it’s not legal for a 13 year old to be sexual with anyone older than 15.
If you are approached by someone who is a lot older than you, stop and think about the legal issues. Also think about whether you really see yourself being in an equal, respectful relationship with that person. Think realistically about their motives: why would a person want to date someone much younger? Do you think they really have your best interests
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Last reviewed September 2013 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team