Romantic Relationships in Adolescence Provide Practice for Adulthood
Many children talk of love and romance even in kindergarten and the primary grades. For instance, they may claim to have “boyfriends” or “girlfriends.” And the opposite sex is the subject of some curiosity throughout the elementary school years.
With the onset of adolescence, the biological changes of puberty are accompanied by new, often unsettling feelings and sexual desires. Not surprisingly, then, romance is often on adolescents’ minds and is a frequent topic of conversation at school (B. B. Brown, Feiring, & Furman, 1999). From a developmental standpoint, romantic relationships have definite benefits: They can address young people’s needs for companionship, affection, and security, and they provide an opportunity to experiment with new social skills and interpersonal behaviors (Furman & Simon, 1999; B. C. Miller & Benson, 1999). At the same time, romance can wreak havoc with adolescents’ emotions. Adolescents have more extreme mood swings than younger children or adults, and for many, this instability may be partly due to the excitement and frustrations of being romantically involved or not involved (Arnett, 1999; Larson, Clore, & Wood, 1999).
In about fifth and sixth grade, all our little group that we had . . . was like, “OK,” you know, “we’re getting ready for junior high,” you know, “it’s time we all have to get a boyfriend.” So I remember, it was funny, Carol, like, there were two guys who were just the heartthrobs of our class, you know . . . so, um, I guess it was Carol and Cindy really, they were, like, sort of the leaders of our group, you know, they were the, yeah, they were just the leaders, and they got Tim and Joe, each of those you know. Carol had Tim and Cindy had Joe. And then, you know, everyone else, then it kind of went down the line, everyone else found someone. I remember thinking, “Well, who am I gonna get? I don’t even like anybody,” you know. I remember, you know, all sitting around, we were saying, “OK, who can we find for Sandy?” you know, looking, so finally we decided, you know, we were trying to decide between Al and Dave and so finally I took Dave (Eckert, 1989, p. 84).
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