Adolescent Romantic Relationships
Early teenage relationships often involve exploring romance, physical intimacy and sexual feelings. You can guide your child through this important stage. 8 Sex, Dating, Passionate Friendships, and Romance: Intimate Peer describe how romantic relationships are central to adolescent development and behavior . First, we describe key themes in this area of research. Finally, we characterize the growing evidence that adolescent romantic relationships are significant for individual . 'Youth's Conflict Resolution Strategies in their Dating Relationships'.
Regarding duration, older adolescents report longer relationships than younger adolescents Carver et al. In addition, girls report longer relationships than boys Carver et al ; Shulman and Scharf Contrary to conventional beliefs about the ephemeral nature of adolescent romance, Carver and colleagues find the median relationship duration to be 14 months, with wide variation by age.
They find the average duration among to year-olds is 5 months, among to year-olds it is 8 months, and among those to years-old it is 20 months 2. While it is likely that adolescent romantic relationship experiences also differ by these factors, the evidence is thin. Relationship qualities In general, most research findings are consistent with the idea that relationship qualities vary with age such that early adolescents have more affiliative, companionate relationships while older adolescents have more committed, loving, and supportive relationships Shulman and Kipnis ; Shulman and Scharf Older adolescents rate support from their romantic partners as more important than support from their best friends and parents compared to younger adolescents who rate parents or peers higher Seiffge-Krenke or do not differentiate support from parents, peers, and partners Connolly and Johnson Regarding relationship behaviors, Carver and colleagues find that with age, partners engage in behaviors that suggest higher levels of relationship commitment and intensity e.
In addition to age, relationship duration impacts on quality such that longer relationships are characterized by more attachment-like characteristics Miller and Hoicowitz ; this may be the case at any age.
However as relationships age, so too do the partners in them. Therefore, relationship duration and age are inextricably tied to one another. Regarding gender differences in relationship qualities, empirical investigations invariably find that females are more relationship-focused than males Galliher, Welsh, Rostosky, and Kawaguchi Girls value relationships more for interpersonal qualities while boys value them for physical attraction Feiring However, recent research offers a portrait of gender differences in relationships that is somewhat different than suggested by past research.
Using evidence from the Toledo Adolescent Relationship Study, Giordano and colleagues show that boys have less confidence than, and similar levels of emotional engagement to girls in relationships.
Furthermore, boys report that their partners have greater power and influence in relationships. Perhaps adolescent gender norms are changing see Risman and Schwartz Relationship Patterns over Time Empirical investigations are beginning to test the idea of a progression model of romantic relationship development. A recent prospective study by Connolly and colleagues uses a sample of Canadian 5th through 8th graders to test whether early adolescents move through romantic involvement phases as predicted by theory — sequentially and progressively as opposed to out of order or regressively.
They also test whether adolescents are more likely to stay in one stage rather than move to another over the course of a year. They find that adolescents progress rather than regress through stages of romantic relationships, that they do so mostly sequentially rather than by skipping a stage, and that there is a fair amount of stage stability over the course of one year. When comparing adolescents of European, Caribbean, and Asian descent, the authors find that European and Caribbean adolescents followed the expected progression while Asian adolescents did not progress in their relationship formation at all over the one-year period.
A second empirical study by Davies and Windle examines dating pathways over a one year interval among middle adolescents and year-olds in a local sample. In this study, respondents are classified into four relationship patterns defined at two points in time over one year: The cross-classification of these four patterns of dating at times 1 and 2 reveals several patterns consistent with the relationship progression idea.
Common transitions between the two time points are: In this study, most respondents experienced transitions between these types of dating experiences, and most transitions followed the orderly patterns predicted by theory — forward progress from fewer short and less intense relationships to more relationships overall, often to a single committed steady relationship.
Finally, a recent study by Seiffge-Krenke uses a prospective sample of West German subjects to assess the individual and relationship precursors to and developmental sequence of adolescent to young adult relationships.
Results confirm that with age adolescents gain more experience, maintain relationships for longer durations, and give higher ratings of partner support. Moreover, adolescent romantic relationships exhibit stronger effects on young adult relationship quality than peer relationships or conceptions of the self.
Thus, while other studies have examined the influence of earlier relationships in other domains, it appears that relationships in the same domain romantic hold more sway over young adult relationships. While the prior empirical research is instructive, several limitations remain. First, most studies examine one or a few discrete aspects of relationships like number of partners or duration or qualities of relationships.
While most studies examine age and gender differences in one of the aforementioned aspects, few studies examine the influence of other demographic characteristics, and rarely do studies examine relationship and individual characteristics together.
Two of the aforementioned studies are ground-breaking in their use of prospective data to confirm propositions about how adolescents enter and progress in romantic relationships during early Connolly et al and middle Davies and Windle adolescence. However, these studies do not cover a wide age range or span of time.
Seiffge-Krenke accounts for relationships over a wider age range, but because the analysis ends at age 21, it may miss the bulk of the transition to adulthood which some suggests stretches into the 30s Arnett A primary disadvantage of such samples is their homogeneity compared to the experience of all adolescents. Local norms probably condition the process of romantic relationship development as much as age or gender does. Therefore, considering homogeneous subjects in a single or several schools in a geographically limited area substantially restricts generalizability.
While several high quality studies have described adolescent romantic relationships using the Add Health data, they have used only one Carver et al or two Joyner and Udry ; Giordano et al waves of these data. This means that observations end at about age 18 and miss young adult relationships.
One new study by Raley and colleagues uses Add Health data to examine the influence of time 1 relationships on duration to cohabitation and marriage at time 3 among only the oldest sample members. To date, none of these studies explicitly test developmental theories of relationship progression over time. The present study describes relationship patterns over the course of approximately seven years by considering both relationship type and quality among a nationally representative sample of adolescents during the transition to adulthood.
The sample consists of adolescents ages at time 1at time 2 and at time 3allowing us to test the idea of relationship progression across a wider age range than has been possible in past studies. In addition, at each interview, respondents report retrospectively on multiple recent romantic relationships, allowing us to capture more than current relationship experience. Although there are not rich measures on romantic relationship qualities, we include a few available measures to give us some sense of how relationships change qualitatively across adolescence.
The role of romantic relationships as a source of support and identity formation may be especially important for sexual minority youth who are often compelled by social norms to keep their sexual orientation secret from family and friends. Risks of Adolescent Romantic Relationships While healthy romantic relationships have many potential benefits for youth, unhealthy relationships pose risks that may have long-lasting impact.
Youth are particularly vulnerable to becoming involved in relationships that include dating violence and risky sexual activity.
Adolescent Romantic Relationships
In fact, teens report dating abuse more often than any other age group National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and teenagers and young adults are more likely than other age groups to have multiple sex partners, to engage in unprotected sex and, for young women, to have sexual partners older than themselves - all risk factors for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy Centers For Disease Control, Adolescents in dating relationships are at great risk for experiencing verbal, emotional, and physical abuse from their partners.
A majority of teens 61 percent who have been in relationships report that a partner has made them feel bad or embarrassed about themselves. More than one-fourth 27 percent of dating teens said that they have a partner call them names or put them down. Nearly one-third 30 percent of teens who have been in relationships said that they have worried about being physically hurt by a partner and 15 percent said they have been hit, slapped, or pushed by a partner Teenage Research Unlimited, Dating violence is not limited to heterosexual youth.
One study found that sexual minority youth are more likely to have experienced dating violence than other students Massachusetts Department of Education, Involvement in abusive relationships can have lasting consequences for youth. Teens that have experienced physical dating abuse are more likely to be involved in intimate partner violence as adults National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, STDs and Premature Pregnancy.
Dating relationships also put teens at risk of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy Furman, A significant minority of teens in romantic relationships report feeling pressure to engage in sexual activity. One out of four teens report that having sex is expected if you are in a relationship and almost one-third of teen girls who had been in a relationship said that they have been pressured to have sex or engage in sexual acts when they did not want to.
Additionally, nearly one-fourth of teen girls reported that they have gone further sexually in a relationship then they wanted to Teenage Research Unlimited, Sexual activity can, of course, have long-term consequences. Acceptance of unhealthy relationships. Research suggests that some teens are accepting of unhealthy relationships.
Over one out of four youth say that it is okay for a significant other to be "really jealous" at times.
Dating and Your Adolescent: Part 1
Promoting Healthy Relationships The risks associated with adolescent romantic relationships can be minimized by helping young people develop the skills for having healthy relationships.
Young people do not automatically know what constitutes right and wrong behavior in dating relationships. Without a clear understanding of what a makes a healthy relationship, youth are likely to tolerate relationships that put them at risk.
For example, it may be easy for a teen to interpret jealousy or constant text messaging as a sign of love rather than seeing the behavior as a warning sign of abuse. Youth must be taught the characteristics of healthy relationships, how to differentiate a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one, and how to seek help if they find themselves in unhealthy relationships.
In the pre- and early teen years, romance comes on the scene in the form of crushes, though there may be little contact with the object of infatuation. Those in their early teens -- especially individuals with high social standing -- typically socialize outside of school in mixed-gender groups. They then begin to pair off in brief dating relationships, often following in the footsteps of the most popular of their peers.
Middle and Late Teens Young teens build confidence by dipping their toes in romantic waters while supported by strong friendships. In time, that confidence allows teens to resist peer opinion and choose romantic partners based on compatibility rather than social desirability.
By high school, group activities that include couples are common, and in late adolescence couples spend less time with the peer group and more time together, while continuing to maintain social networks.
The average duration of adolescent romantic relationships increases throughout the teen years. By age 16 youth report that relationships typically last for six months, and by 18 relationships often last a year or more, with black teens sustaining longer relationships than other racial or ethnic groups.
Influences on Relationship Quality In adolescence, when relationships are new, young people's experiences are shaped in part by family and peers. Parents and Family The level of closeness and support adolescents have experienced with their parents and siblings influences the quality of their romantic relationships. If communication between parents and children is positive and supportive in early adolescence, youth are more likely to interact positively with romantic partners in late adolescence.
How parents model conflict also affects their children's relationships. Parental divorce alters young people's views of commitment and the level of intimacy they experience in their own relationships.
Romantic Relationships in Adolescence
Experience of serious conflict within marriage can also make a child more likely to perpetrate or be victimized by dating violence, as can physical and sexual abuse in childhood. Friends and Peers Peer relationships are influential as well. To some extent, the quality of romantic relationships mirrors that of friendships: Teens who have close and trusting friendships are likely to have close and trusting romantic relationships, while those who tend toward hostility and aggression with friends and peers will bring these tendencies into relationships.
Similarly, the level of relational skills that youth develop within friendship -- such as expressing differing points of view and resolving conflicts -- are reflected in their romantic relationships.