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Gender and the Meanings of Adolescent Romantic Relationships

March 23, 2013

In their article, ‘Gender and the Meanings of Adolescent Romantic Relationships’, Peggy C. Giordano, Monica A. Longmore and Wendy D. Manning point out that:

Increased interest in heterosexual relationships has long been considered a hallmark of adolescence (Waller 1937; Sullivan 1953). Yet sociological attention to adolescent love and romance is dwarfed by the level of cultural interest, ranging from television and film portrayals to parental concerns about teenage sexuality and pregnancy. Recently, media accounts have declared the end of dating and romance among teens in favor of casual hook-ups that lack feelings of intimacy or commitment (see, e.g., Denizet-Lewis 2004). A large-scale investigation based on a national probability sample of adolescents contradicts this depiction, however: by age 18 over 80 percent of adolescents have some dating experience, and a majority of [-p.261] these liaisons are defined by adolescent respondents as “special romantic relationships” (Carver, Joyner, and Udry 2003). Even relatively young adolescents indicate some romantic relationship experience, and those who do not nevertheless express a strong interest in dating (Giordano, Longmore, and Manning 2001). In spite of the ubiquitous nature of dating relationships during the period, we know little about how adolescents themselves experience the transition from a social life based on same-gender friendships to one that includes romantic involvement (Brown, Feiring, and Furman 1999).We know much more about the character, meaning, and impact of adolescent peer relations. This research not only underscores that peers and friends are critically important to children and adolescents (see, e.g., Call and Mortimer 2001; Crosnoe 2000; Youniss and Smollar 1985), but it also provides a basis for expecting gender differences in the ways in which adolescents navigate and experience romantic relationships (Maccoby 1990) emphasizes that girls more often forge intimate dyadic friendships and rely on supportive styles of communication, while boys tend to play in larger groups, use a “restrictive”interaction style, and develop a greater emphasis on issues of dominance. In light of these differences, she poses a key developmental question: “What happens, then, when individuals from these two distinctive ‘cultures’ attempt to interact with one another? People of both sexes are faced with a relatively unfamiliar situation to which they must adapt” (Maccoby 1990:517).” (pp.260-261)

The authors address romantic adolescent relationships from the ‘boys’ perspective’… interesting…

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Peggy C. Giordano, Monica A. Longmore and Wendy D. Manning (2006)  Gender and the Meanings of Adolescent Romantic Relationships: A Focus on Boys.  American Sociological Review, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Apr., 2006), pp. 260-287

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