Relationship beliefs of early and middle adolescents



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Texas Tech University


In junior high and high school, most adolescents expenment with cross-gender relationships, and most consider themselves as having been "in love" at least once. Yet littie is known about adolescents and love. This study was designed to assess love attitudes and beliefs—cognitive components of love—among earh and middle adolescents (grades 7 through 12). On the basis of adolescent developmental theory, differences between those who had little dating experience and those who had greater dating experience were expected, in both the structural relationships of the love attitudes and beliefs and in the strength of the endorsement of certain beliefs. Gender differences were also expected, based on prior research.

Relationship beliefs were operationalized in three conceptually related ways. Adolescents were given a questionnaire that asked how much they agreed with statements expressing passionate longing, statements expressing common romantic beliefs, based on the work of Lantz's assessments of American romantic notions, and statements expressing various love attitudes, based on Lee's love typology. The sample included 93 early-adolescent males (grades 7-9), 102 early-adolescent females, 94 middle-adolescent males (grades 10-12), and 94 middle adolescent females. Subjects were recruited by a network sample of youth organizations and private schools, primarily during the summer months of 1991.

Results indicated tiiat the strength of passionate love is not different for boys and giris. However, boys are more likely to believe in love at first sight than are giris. Adolescents who have greater dating experience have stronger feelings of "passionate longing." The romantic belief that love overcomes all obstacles is also stronger for tiiose with more dating experience, as are the Agapic and Manic love attitudes. Additionally, those with greater dating experience appear to have a more elaborate cluster of love attitudes: a consolidated "Ludic" love attitude was not apparent among those with littie dating experience in this study. Girls endorsed Storgic and Agapic attitudes to a greater extent than did boys. These results are interpreted in light of psychosocial developmental tiieory and contextual influences in the lives of adolescents.