Romance and Sex in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: Risks and Opportunities is a book concerning romantic and sexual relationships of young people and is edited by Alan Booth, Ann C. Crouter and Anastasia Snyder.
The book is divided into four parts: What are the evolutionary origins of contemporary patterns of sexual and romantic relationships, how do early family and peer relationships give rise to the quality of romantic relationships in adulthood and young adulthood, how do early romantic and sexual relationships influence people contemporaneously and later in life, and to what extent are current trends in sexual and romantic relationships problematic for individuals, families and society?
The first couple of chapters of the book is centered on the piece Broken Hearts: The Nature and Risks of Romantic Rejection by Helen E. Fisher. This first chapter is concerned with three neural systems; lust, romantic love and attachment (or companionate love). Fisher provides evidence for how these three areas are influenced by for example dopamine and the connection between neurological activity and behavior. The following articles, by Barber & Schmitt & Schwartz put forward their arguments for and against Fishers research.
The second part of the book, featuring authors Collins & van Dulmen, Coontz, Joyner & Campa, Bryant and Brown is concerned with how early relationships with family and peer groups affect future romantic relationships. Among other findings is mentioned that close relationships with parents in childhood affect relationship satisfaction in adulthood and that close friendships and relationships with peer groups affect romantic relationships. The authors share and discuss different ideas and findings with some surprising results.
Part three, how early experiences influence later experiences and relationships includes articles by Giordano, Manning & Longmore, Murry, Hurt, Kogan & Luo, Snyder & Furman & Hand. Broadly, the different articles discuss issues such as gender, ethnicity, family support, peer relations, contexts such as family and relationships to family members, parental monitoring and self-esteem. Each article puts forward the author´s thoughts and ideas and own research while describing which direction future research should take.
Part four, how current trends affect romantic relationships, emphasizes research with focus on gender, ethnicity and differences in practices such as contraceptive use in adolescent´s first relationship compared to last relationship with questions also procuring about the quality of the relationship. Findings such as the fact that girls more than boys assess the relationship as romantic and that Hispanics have higher rates of teenage pregnancy and less use of contraceptives provides information about social ideas and practices. Here, economic approaches to sexual practices and decisions about family, such as cost and benefits of having children, using contraceptive and so on is also discussed.
All articles are well written and most certainly have their points. What is difficult for a reader that is much interested in social norms and expectations is the fact that such a view is not always included in the articles with a biological and neurological focus. For example, when picking a mate, women are described as looking for the mate that has many resources in order to provide for the offspring while men look for younger women that appear fertile. But what about women that do not want to have children, do they search for a partner with resources to the same extent as a woman who wants children? What about men that are romantically involved with older women? Also, biological factors are described to account for men's wish to have a larger number of partners than women do (based on questionnaires). However, what about societal norms in this matter? We know that girls and women are often "punished" and called names if involved with a larger number of men, how do we know that biology takes precedence over social expectations?
I truly enjoyed reading this book as it engages the reader in critical thinking and reflection. At times I did find the book somewhat repetitive but at the same time that could be necessary in order to truly understand the complexity of the questions at hand and repetition and discussions that provide differing thoughts and opinions is necessary to get the fuller picture. Although it is not completely necessary, some previous experience with neurological terms would probably help the reader understand the first part of this book. The whole book, or chapters of it are certainly of use in the classroom when discussing several different topics concerning adolescents and romantic and sexual relationships and I recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic.
© 2016 Elin Weiss
Elin Weiss has a Bachelor´s Degree in Psychology and a Master´s Degree in Women´s Studies from University College Dublin.