New Psychology Research Sheds Light on the Link Between Romance and Friendships During Adolescence

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by PsyPost.

Have you ever wondered how teenage romances influence friendships? A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships delved into this topic. Researchers found that teenagers in romantic relationships are less likely to form new friendships, yet these relationships don’t necessarily spell the end for existing ones. Understanding these dynamics can offer valuable insights into adolescent development and help educators, parents, and teenagers themselves foster healthier social environments.

Adolescence is a crucial period for social development, where friendships serve as the main stage for learning social and emotional skills. Yet, the fragile nature of these relationships, combined with the burgeoning world of romantic involvement, presents a puzzle: how do these romantic engagements shape the broader social landscape of adolescence?

Researchers embarked on this study to unravel this mystery. The researchers harnessed data from the Teenage Friends and Lifestyle Study, which tracked adolescent friendships in Glasgow, Scotland, between 1995 and 1997.

“We were drawn to this topic because of the intricate association between romantic relationships and adolescent social networks,” said lead author Haoyang Zhang, a PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Data Analytics at Pennsylvania State University.

Participants were asked to name up to six friends, providing a clear picture of their social networks. Additionally, they reported their romantic relationship status, enabling the researchers to explore the dynamics of friendship formation and dissolution against the backdrop of teenage romance.

The study’s findings paint a fascinating picture of teenage social life, where those dating tended to befriend other daters, while single teens gravitated towards one another. This trend held even when controlling for other factors, such as gender and shared activities, underscoring the significant role of romantic relationships in shaping social circles.

“The key takeaway from our study for the average person is that adolescents’ involvement in a romantic relationship can significantly change their friendship patterns,” Zhang told PsyPost. “First, our findings reveal that teenagers in romantic relationships tend to befriend others who are also in romantic relationships, while those who are not in such a relationship often form friendships with other singles. Second, our results show that young people who are in a romantic relationship are significantly less likely to make new friends over time than those who are single.”

However, the study revealed a twist in the tale of teenage romance and friendship. While being in a romantic relationship made teenagers less likely to forge new friendships, it did not lead to an increased likelihood of existing friendships ending. This suggests that while love might limit the expansion of a teenager’s social horizons, it doesn’t necessarily undermine the friendships they already have.

Source: PsyPost

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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