Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 1673–1684 | Cite as

The Symbolic Nature of Trust in Heterosexual Adolescent Romantic Relationships

  • Jerika C. NoronaEmail author
  • Deborah P. Welsh
  • Spencer B. Olmstead
  • Chloe F. Bliton
Original Paper


Trust contributes to young people’s capacity for sustaining current and future successful relationships. To date, research has yet to examine the meaning of trust in early dating relationships and reasons for its deterioration. The present study focused on video-recorded conversations about trust between 34 heterosexual adolescent couples in dating relationships living in the U.S. Transcripts from these conversations were qualitatively analyzed using thematic analysis to identify adolescents’ meanings of trust and reasons they provided for a lack of trust in their romantic partners. All 34 couples identified concerns specifically related to infidelity. Six major themes for not trusting romantic partners emerged. Results suggested that the lack of trust in romantic relationships might stem from several areas that are directly and indirectly related to the current relationship, including low self-esteem, the experience of betrayal in past romantic relationships, partners’ extradyadic behaviors, and gossip among peers. Importantly, peers can play a defining role in influencing young people’s perceptions of their romantic partners and developing or sustaining trust in their romantic relationships.


Adolescence Romantic relationships Trust Infidelity Thematic analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jerika C. Norona
    • 1
    Email author
  • Deborah P. Welsh
    • 1
  • Spencer B. Olmstead
    • 2
  • Chloe F. Bliton
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, College of Arts and SciencesThe University of Tennessee, KnoxvilleKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Child and Family Studies, College of Education, Health, and Human SciencesThe University of Tennessee, KnoxvilleKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, College of the Liberal ArtsThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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