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What age do crushes start?

Crushes can start at any age. However, research shows that crushes tend to become more intense and complex as children grow older. Some key points about when crushes emerge:

  • Infants and toddlers may demonstrate attachment to caretakers or siblings, which could be considered a type of “crush.” However, these early attachments lack the romantic element of crushes in older children.
  • Preschoolers, around ages 3-5, may proclaim to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, but this is still distinct from romantic attraction. Preschoolers are exploring relationships and mimicking adult behaviors.
  • Elementary school, around ages 6-10, is when platonic crushes start to emerge. Children develop interests and attachments to classmates but not necessarily romantic feelings.
  • Preteens, around ages 10-12, experience more intense attachments and begin feeling shy or awkward around their crushes. Romantic interest intensifies at this age.
  • Teenagers, ages 13 and up, experience strong romantic and sexual feelings towards crushes. Crushes are very common and intense during adolescence.

So in summary, platonic crushes can start as early as preschool, but romantic attraction and sexual interest tend to arise later around ages 10-12 as children enter puberty. The teenage years are when crushes become most intense. However, the age of experiencing first crushes can vary substantially between individuals.

When Do Crushes Start in Boys vs. Girls?

There are some differences between when crushes emerge in boys compared to girls:

  • Girls tend to start developing crushes a little earlier, around ages 9-11, whereas for boys it’s more common around ages 11-13.
  • Girls are more likely to share information about crushes with friends. Boys tend to keep it to themselves early on.
  • For girls, crushes may start as attachments to older boys. For boys, early crushes tend to be on girls their own age.
  • Boys tend to focus on physical appearance of crushes, whereas girls also consider personality traits early on.

However, these are just generalizations. There is substantial overlap between boys and girls, and differences depend a lot on each child’s individual development and environment.

What Triggers Crushes to Develop?

There are a few key factors that contribute to the development of crushes in childhood and adolescence:

  • Puberty – The hormones of puberty drive interest in relationships and sexual attraction. Areas of the brain involved in feelings of reward and emotional processing also develop.
  • Increasing independence – Spending more time with peers apart from parents enables new attachments to form.
  • Cognitive development – Around ages 9-12, children become capable of more complex reasoning about relationships and intimacy.
  • Social cues – Messages from peers and media about romance and status influence interest.
  • Self-esteem – Crushes sometimes arise to boost social standing during a period of high self-consciousness.

Overall, the biological, emotional, and social changes taking place around puberty initiate romantic and sexual interest leading to crushes emerging in preteens and continuing through adolescence.

Stages of Crush Development

Crushes often develop through a series of stages:

1. Awareness – Realizing you feel differently towards one person vs. everyone else. Taking notice of physical and emotional reactions when you see them.

2. Infatuation – Constantly thinking about them, looking for signs they like you back. Strong emotional and physical arousal around them.

3. Preoccupation – Fantasizing about being with them. Making elaborate plans to try and spend time together or impress them.

4. Decline – Emotions start to decline after the initial intense stage. The person becomes more “real.”

5. Attachment – After the initial infatuation, deeper feelings of attachment may remain if you end up in a relationship. Or the crush fades if it’s unrequited.

These stages don’t necessarily happen linearly. But awareness tends to come first, followed by a period of intense infatuation and preoccupation. This intensity then usually declines to attachment or moving on from the crush.

Do Crushes Always Develop into Romantic Relationships?

While crushes involve romantic attraction and interest, most crushes do not actually develop into romantic relationships, especially among young teens:

  • One study found only 12% of middle school crushes resulted in romantic involvement.
  • Shyness, lack of self-confidence, and anxiety are common barriers preventing progression from crush to relationship.
  • Many crushes are unrealistic or idealized attachments, so the feelings fade as you get to know the real person.
  • Some crushes represent attempts to boost social status rather than genuine emotional connection.

However, reciprocated crushes that turn into relationships tend to be those where both people idealize each other and have enough confidence to communicate their mutual feelings and attraction.

How Long Do Crushes Last?

There is no set duration for how long crushes last. Some key factors influencing crush duration:

  • Infatuation tends to peak around 4-5 months, providing the initial rush of a crush.
  • Crushes may last longer (6+ months) if you don’t directly interact with the person often.
  • Shyness and anxiety can prolong unrequited crushes.
  • Crushes fade once you get to know the real person behind the fantasy.
  • Entering a relationship or having feelings reciprocated can extend attachment beyond the initial crush.

On average, crushes tend to last about 4-6 months in total. But they may persist for years in some cases, or fizzle out within weeks in others. It depends a lot on individual circumstances and readiness for romance.

How Many Crushes Is Normal?

There is no specific number of crushes that is considered “normal” or not normal. A few factors influence crush frequency:

  • Younger children tend to have fewer crushes, while teens develop crushes regularly.
  • Some people crush easily and fall in and out of love multiple times per year.
  • Others have fewer but more intense, long-lasting crushes.
  • Environment also plays a role – school vs homeschooling, size of class, etc.

According to one survey, the average number of crushes per year is:

  • Ages 5-6: 0-1 crush per year
  • Ages 7-9: 1-2 crushes per year
  • Ages 10-14: 2-5 crushes per year
  • Ages 15-17: 4-6 crushes per year

But again, variability is normal. As long as crushes don’t entirely consume life or cause severe distress, any crush frequency within a reasonable range can be considered normal.

Helpful Ways for Parents to Handle Children’s Crushes

Some tips for parents to help children navigate crushes in a healthy way:

  • Don’t dismiss it as “puppy love” – acknowledge crushes are real experiences of attraction for your child.
  • Respect your child’s privacy; don’t pry for information or tease/embarrass them about crushes.
  • Have open conversations about romance, relationships, and consent at appropriate ages.
  • Don’t enable obsessive crush behaviors that interfere with your child’s life.
  • Encourage appropriate ways to interact with crushes, not lurking on their social media for hours!
  • If a crush becomes too intense, help your child take perspective and focus on other friendships/interests.
  • Highlight that crushes come and go; guide your teen in resilience when crushes don’t work out.

Overall, crushes allow children to explore love and relationships in developmentally appropriate ways. With parental guidance, they can learn important social-emotional lessons through these early dating experiences.


In summary, crushes emerge in elementary school years and become more intense around puberty. They are driven by biological, emotional, and social changes taking place. While the initial intensity fades in months, attachment may remain if it transitions to an actual relationship. Most crushes do not advance to dating, but represent normal experiences of attraction as children develop relationship understanding. Through open communication and measured guidance, parents can help ensure crushes remain healthy learning opportunities.