Before the mid-1990’s the vast majority of research on adolescent and young adult romantic involvement focus on the connection between early experience with parents (Madsen & Collins, 2011, p. 791). Past literature have shown that adolescents who have supportive relationships with their parents during years of adolescence have a smoother transition to forming romantic relationships during young adulthood as they learn beneficial relationship skills that will aid them as they emerge to adulthood (Valle & Tillman, 2014, p. 99 and 100). Intimacy is considered to be one of the most critical developmental tasks that marks one’s entry into adulthood. The failure to establish intimacy in a romantic relationship and sustain a committed partnership can hinder one’s development. Romantic relationships among adolescents and young adults have been explored by developmental theorists and encompasses the following motivational self-needs:
- Self-esteem, the desire to gain confidence in one’s attainment of dating to establish identity.
- Status, the matter of importance of one’s social image.
- Affection, reaching beyond the peer group, the concern of being emotionally and sexually involved with another individual.
- Lastly bonding, the mature and final phase where one fuse a number of different desires: emotions, sexual desire and long-term commitment when pursuing a romantic partnership (Kindelberger & Tsao, 2013, p. 148).
It is important to note that as adolescents transition to young adults, there desire to achieve the need of companionship and closeness helps make sense of their own social identity (Meier & Allen, 2009, p. 310). The types of relationships that emerges over the course of adolescence to young adulthood consists of the following labels and categories:
- Romantic Partnership – The relationship that highlights the notion of emotional closeness and attachment and is labeled as non-sexual but involves the so called “lovey dovey” cute little good morning text messages, dinner and movie dates.
- Sexual Partnership – Individuals consider one another as only “fuck buddies” or just “messing around”—the relationship is only on a sexual bases, in other words in a sexual partnership has no attachment or real emotional tie.
- Romantic and Sexual Partnership – The ideal relationship that an individual wants and values to be in. This partnership involves both the love and companionship of a partner with the drop of sexual desire.
- Not Yet Romantic – The relationship where two individuals are not yet officially in a relationship but are as described as “talking” or just “hanging out” in order to get to see if there could be any romantic or sexual spark (Banker, Kaestle & Allen, 2010, p. 177).
Romantic Relationships in Adolescence
Among this group of individuals, self discovery is an essential piece in one’s transition to forming romantic partnerships in young adulthood. In this stage of living, adolescents explore their own identity through the exploration of several relationships and they are driven deeply to become romantically involved with others (Madsen & Collins, 2011, p. 790). In adolescence, one begins to reach beyond the context of a peer group for support and inquires and dally in feelings of dating. They progress to one dyadic relationship, the partnership in which one goes out exclusively with their significant other to affirm the status of the relationship—in the hopes that they will later establish a long-term steady and committed relationship. (Meier & Allen, 2009, p. 316). Though it is considered to be a normative behavioral phase-based progression to have establish several relationships during adolescence, adolescents who continue to acquire many dating partners across mid-adolescence may lack the ability to move on towards more serious and exclusive partnerships that may lead them to have difficulty forming steady intimate relationships in young adulthood (Madsen & Collins, 2011, p. 790). Nevertheless, adolescents who date fewer partners and who experience a better quality dating during the exploration phase of the dating experience demonstrates better romantic relationship formation in early young adulthood.
During adolescence, girls are more in line to care about their romantic relationships than boys (Monahan, Dmitrieva, & Cauffman, 2014, p. 22) with the suggestion that the concern of romantic relationships are at a higher level of interest among girls than boys due to age, gender role and idealized scripts (Soller, 2014, p. 55). As noted previously, identity among this population group is vital as it assists them in arriving towards an awareness of who they are, creating a sense of self, purpose and belonging to the outer world. For adolescent girls, to develop and maintain a romantic relationship is apart of their gender identity script and they are linked more with the gender role-identity that involves the building of interpersonal relationships whereas boys are associated with physical tasks that results them to have more freedom and independence (Soller, 2014, p. 60). In addition, girls are most vulnerable to the development of romantic relationships as they emerge to adulthood and they become increasingly vulnerable to their partner influence. With this in mind, it maybe suggested that for boys, the forming of romantic relationships matter most during early adolescence but the development and building of romantic relationships matter most for girls is during young adulthood (Soller, 2014, p. 22).
Romantic Relationships in Young Adulthood
As they begin to transition to become an adult, one’s system of motivational self-needs shifts and they are seen to progress into a more mature adult-like state of being. Past literature that focus on understanding romantic relationship formation in the life stages of adolescence to young adulthood proposals that the support and companionship of a partner is looked up as the desire characteristic and quality when seeking a romantic partnership as opposed to adolescence whose desire motive is to self discover through the experimentation of dating. The adolescent who was once egocentric starts to inquiry about the concern for another, his or hers identity in the works of their career path, financial stability and the pursue of marriage to start their very own family.
The pursue of a romantic relationships for young adults are in a combination of dyadic, emotional, romantic and sexually intimate partnership (Meier & Allen, 2009, p. 324). Young adults are more motivated to pursue a romantic partnership experience that could potentially fulfill their long-term need for emotional, physical intimacy and support by a partner. These values take into account the means of this relationship as they move into a serious and independent phase in which they focus emotionally on the dyadic partnership. (Meier & Allen, 2009, p. 310). The triangular theory of love developed by psychologist Robert Sternberg explains the matter of young adult love within an interpersonal relationship. The young adult romantic partnership focuses on three main dimensions and or elements:
- Passion. The physical and sexual attraction that one has for another.
- Intimacy. The emotional feelings of closeness and attachment.
- Commitment. The decision to stay and maintain a relationship with another even in really tough times.
In the examination of the theory of love, it is important to note that Sternberg’s three main dimensions of love is more than likely to shift throughout the course of a person’s life as one evolves and changes continuously. In young adulthood, we recognize that a relationship based on a single dimension is not likely to survive versus those that consist of two or more elements. In a young adult romantic relationship, different stages and types of love could be combined, creating the four types of love: romantic, fatuous, companionate and consummate love. For young adults today, society and culture still play a tremendous role in how one views their relationship. (Banker, Kaestle, & Allen, 2010, p. 185). In addition, one may be uncertain as whether or not their relationship is romantic or not. The lack of communication and decision-making may causes these individuals to view their relationship either positive or negative.
The romantic relationship experience among both adolescents and young adults are indeed unique and different. In this paper, we can conclude that in the life stage of adolescence, one’s attitudes towards pursuing a romantic relationship is motivated by the desire to fulfill the following self-needs: self-esteem, status, affection and bonding. Adolescents also try to achieve and attain self discovery through the establishment of several romantic relationships. We can note during adolescence that the pursuit of romantic partnership are causal but as time progresses it is in the hopes that they will later commit to a steady exclusive relationship. In the life stage of young adulthood on the other hand, the dominant culture of the outer world essentially influences the way young women and men uses language to create meaning about their relationship while also noting that the system of self-needs and theoretical orientation of love changes as age, gender role identity scripts emerges through transition to the stage of adolescence to young adulthood. We can also see that as they emerge into the new life stage of adulthood, one begins to inquire deeply about support and companionship.
Banker, J. E., Kaestle, C. E., & Allen, K. R. (2010). Dating is Hard Work: A Narrative Approach to Understanding Sexual and Romantic Relationships in Young Adulthood. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 32(2), 173-191. doi:10.1007/s10591-009-9111-9
Kindelberger, C., & Tsao, R. (2014). Staying Alone or Getting Attached: Development of the Motivations Toward Romantic Relationships During Adolescence. Journal Of Genetic Psychology, 175(2), 147-162. doi:10.1080/00221325.2013.834291
Madsen, S. D., & Collins, W. A. (2011). The Salience of Adolescent Romantic Experiences for Romantic Relationship Qualities in Young Adulthood. Journal Of Research On Adolescence (Wiley-Blackwell), 21(4), 789-801. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2011.00737.x
Meier, A., & Allen, G. (2009). ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS FROM ADOLESCENCE TO YOUNG ADULTHOOD: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Sociological Quarterly, 50(2), 308-335. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.2009.01142.x
Monahan, K. C., Dmitrieva, J., & Cauffman, E. (2014). Bad Romance: Sex Differences in the Longitudinal Association Between Romantic Relationships and Deviant Behavior. Journal Of Research On Adolescence (Wiley-Blackwell), 24(1), 12-26. doi:10.1111/jora.12019
Soller, B. (2014). Caught in a Bad Romance: Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Mental Health. Journal Of Health & Social Behavior, 55(1), 56-72. doi:10.1177/0022146513520432