Relationships and Development

Oxytocin as a Predictor

Oxytocin is one of the major chemicals that stimulate the pleasure/reward area of the brain, and it is the chemical that gives you a good feeling when you fall in love.  When you fall in love, the cortical producing areas of the brain, which cause sadness, are deactivated.  This adds to the pleasure-producing feeling that falling in love creates.  Oxytocin levels are higher in couples compared to people who are single, and oxytocin can also predict the future of a relationship; the higher the oxytocin levels in a relationship, the higher the possibility of it succeeding in the long term.  Oxytocin increases in males over the first six months of a relationship but decreases in women over that same period (Feldman 2011).

 Length of Relationships

When you enter into a relationship, it is a little bit different.  Cortisol, a stress hormone, is released in the early stages of a relationship.  It makes sense; you have to think and care about someone else and their problems in addition to your own.  Another hormone that is affected in relationships is testosterone.  Early in relationships, testosterone is found to decrease in men and increase in women, suggesting that women have more control over relationships in their infancy.  A long-term relationship decreases testosterone levels in both participants in the relationship, which would indicate that each person settles down with their partner.

See Survey Question 11

Parent’s Role in Teen Relationships

64% of parents with adolescents aged 17-19 set dating rules for their children (Madsen, 2008).  Even though adolescents turn to their peers for pop culture advice, they still look to their parents when it comes to moral issues (Madsen, 2008).  Parents use different types of rules to attempt to control: supervision rules (e.g., rules requiring attainment of parental permission to play, rules to have an adult present during play), restriction rules (e.g., rules regarding times to start or end play, rules about where the child can play), or rules concerning behavior with peers (e.g., rules concerning conflict management strategies, rules encouraging prosocial behavior, rules promoting parent-preferred behavior such as the playing with friends the child’s own age) (Madsen, 2008).  Inconsistent parenting can have a major impact on how adolescents react to rules about anything, including rules about dating (Madsen, 2008).  Adolescents are also known to rebel against rules that their parents set, so the rules can have the opposite of the intended effect.

 Partner Selection

In middle adolescence (loosely ages 14-16) females select their partner based on interpersonal relationships, while males choose their partner based on physical aspects.  In late adolescence, both males and females make this decision based on interpersonal relationships.

 Dating Negatives

There are negatives to dating; breakups are linked to the onset of clinical depression, and as many as 2/3 and at least 1/5 of American teens experience dating violence.  One major gauge in judging the health of a teen relationship is not the quantity of conflict, but the way it is resolved.  Also, there is a correlation between girls who date before age 15 and negative socialization. (Feldman 2011) (Madsen 2008)