The changing importance of romantic relationship involvement to competence from late childhood to late adolescence

Jennifer Neemann, Jon Hubbard, Ann S. Masten

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107 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although developmental theorists such as Sullivan (1953) and Havighurst (1972) have suggested that the formation of romantic relationships in adolescence is an important developmental task, researchers of the adolescent “problem behavior syndrome” have documented that early sexual intercourse is related to problems with conduct, academics, and chemical use. In this study multiple measures of competence and romantic relationship involvement were obtained from a normative community sample of children and adolescents. These were used in path analyses to document the concurrent and longitudinal predictions of romantic involvement and competence to examine the concurrent and longitudinal linkages of romantic interest and involvement to four other domains of adaptive behavior. Results suggest that although success in romantic relationships has roots in general peer competence, there may be both deviant and prosocial pathways of initial romantic involvement. Early romantic involvement in late childhood and early to middle adolescence may have negative consequences for academic, job, and conduct domains of competence. Later in adolescence, romantic relationship involvement loses its negative significance, perhaps as it becomes a normative developmental task. Results highlight the need for developmental research on the origins and meaning of romantic relationships, one of the most neglected aspects of peer relationships. © 1995, Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)727-750
Number of pages24
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1995

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