Capacity for intimate relationships: A developmental construction

W. Andrew Collins, L. Alan Sroufe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

172 Scopus citations


The advent of romantic relationships is a hallmark transition of adolescence. Images of the sudden onset of preoccupation with the other, shyness and self-consciousness, awkwardness in interactions, and sexual awakening suffuse popular treatments of the topic. In developmental perspective, however, romantic relationships are embedded in fundamental human motivations to form and maintain close relationships (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; MacDonald, 1992) and in a meaningful progression of relationships across the life course (Ainsworth, 1989; Feeney & Noller, 1990; Furman & Wehner, 1994). Early caregiver-child relationships, peer relationships in preschool and middle childhood, and close mutual friendships in adolescence all potentially contribute to the behavioral patterns and emotional orientations that mark a relationship as romantic. Romantic relationships are distinct from these forerunners in many ways. In contrast to the kinship or legal bonds that commonly circumscribe caregiving relationships, romantic relationships are voluntary and symmetrical. Literary and popular portrayals frequently depict as tragic the attempts of parents, other authority figures, or social conventions to coerce, nullify, or otherwise render involuntary the selection of a romantic partner. In contrast to caregiving relationships, in romance each partner is dependent upon the other, whereas the dependency of child on caregiver is asymmetrical. In contrast to friendships, the reciprocal dependency of romantic partners is typically greater and more extensive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Development of Romantic Relationships in Adolescence
EditorsW. Furman, C. Feiring, B. B. Brown
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781316182185
ISBN (Print)9780521591560
StatePublished - 1999


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