Observation of the romantic lives of the majority of young people shows that they might move between transitory and inconsistent states, being in and out of a relationship. The present study aims to better understand the meaning of these fluctuations. For this purpose, and employing a multi-method design, 144 Israeli adolescents (59.7% females) were followed from age 16 to 23. At age 23 in-depth interviews were conducted with the participants, focusing on their romantic histories. Analyses of interviews at age 23 yielded four distinctive romantic pathways differing in stability and the ability to progress toward intimacy: Sporadic and Casual Encounters, Sporadic Encounters in Response to a Stressful Romantic Experience, Steady Non-Intimate Involvements, and Progression toward Steady Intimate Involvements. The findings showed that more than half of participants belonged to the Progression toward Steady Intimate Involvements pathway, suggesting that romantic fluctuations served as means to progress toward intimate involvements. Progression toward steady intimate involvement was explained by greater secure attachment, greater capacity to face tension and to express one’s views, and greater parental support measured seven years earlier. In contrast, lower earlier intra- and interpersonal assets during adolescence were more likely to associate with a variety of romantic experiences during emerging adulthood that are characterized by romantic instabilities and difficulty to progress toward intimacy. The findings are discussed within the framework of the Developmental Systems Theory.
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S.S. conceived the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the statistical analysis and led the drafting of the manuscript; I.S.K. participated in the design and interpretation of the data, performed the statistical analysis and helped to draft the manuscript; I.Z. participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed the measurements and helped to draft the manuscript. R.T.M. participated in the design of the study and contributed significantly to the qualitative analyses. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This study was supported by the Israeli Ministry of Health - Grant # 6412/12 given to Shmuel Shulman and The Ben Dov Chair in Youth Psychology given to Shmuel Shulman.
Data Sharing and Declaration
The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study was approved by the Bar Ilan University Institutional Review Board. The authors report compliance with ethical standards.
Adolescents were examined only after own and parents’ consent was received. At age 23 participants’ written consent was received.
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Shulman, S., Seiffge-Krenke, I., Ziv, I. et al. Patterns of Romantic Pathways among 23 Year Olds and their Adolescent Antecedents. J Youth Adolescence 48, 1390–1402 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-018-0951-1
- Romantic pathways
- Emerging adults
- Romantic relationships
- Longitudinal study
- Developmental Systems Theory