Sexuality Research & Social Policy

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 32–41 | Cite as

Kissing is good: A developmental investigation of sexuality in adolescent romantic couples

  • Deborah P. WelshEmail author
  • Peter T. Haugen
  • Laura Widman
  • Nancy Darling
  • Catherine M. Grello


This study investigated sexuality as a predictor of the quality of adolescent romantic relationships. Individuals’ sexual feelings (desire for partner) and couples’ sexual behaviors were examined as components of sexuality, with gender and age as potential moderators. Participants included 211 male-female couples aged 14–21 that had been dating a minimum of 4 weeks. Findings revealed important connections between sexuality and relationship quality. Specifically, kissing and desiring a romantic partner correlated positively to relationship satisfaction and commitment. The link between sexual intercourse and relationship qualities, however, varied according to age. In younger adolescents, the frequency of intercourse was negatively correlated with relationship quality, while in older adolescents, the frequency of intercourse correlated positively with relationship commitment and had no connection with relationship satisfaction. Gender did not moderate the link between sexual behavior and relationship quality. Findings are discussed from a normative framework and implications for social policy are explored.

Key words

normative sexuality sexual behaviors desire romantic relationships commitment relationship satisfaction gender 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah P. Welsh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter T. Haugen
    • 1
  • Laura Widman
    • 1
  • Nancy Darling
    • 2
  • Catherine M. Grello
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAustin Peay Building, University of TennesseeKnoxville
  2. 2.228A Severance LaboratoryOberlin

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