6.2: Teenagers and Dating
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- Summarize how dating became a form of social interaction.
- Describe the functions dating fulfills.
- Explain the disadvantages of dating.
- Dating is not a social function that is practiced by all people.
- Dating serves several important functions in adolescence.
- Dating patterns can be viewed as a continuum.
- People are influenced by the norms and beliefs of society.
- Why do teenagers date?
- What is the social purpose for dating?
- Should dating among teenagers be prohibited? Why or why not?
- Do boys and girls view dating differently? If so how?
- How do you think dating has changed from 50 years ago? 25 years ago?
Teenagers and Dating
Dating is defined as the meeting of people as a romantic engagement and is a social behavior that allows individuals to choose their own marriage partners. Dating is mostly experienced in societies that allow people to choose their own marriage partners. The majority of Americans especially teenagers are exposed to dating. But like adolescence, dating is not a universal phenomenon. In other societies, dating does not exist and marriages are arranged by parents or other people who negotiates a formal marriage contract between families.
History of Dating
In the years 1920's to 1945, dating involved a more informal dating than ever before. For the first time there were no chaperones on dates between males and females. The dates required no formal commitment to each other and there was more freedom. Previously the community and church established the dating rules, but now the peers instituted the rules. Instead of the man coming to the women's house, they went "out" where it required money. It is said that there was a control issue surrounding the change in dating. Previously dating was somewhat in the women's control because the man was coming into her house. However, now couples were going out and the man paid for the date. The most popular pastimes on dates were dancing and movies.
Before the 1920's going dancing was a group activity but now it became couple oriented. Cars also had a huge impact on dating practices. Having a car now enabled couples to have more privacy and intimacy. This new kind of dating allowed each person to get to know each other better before they settled in an exclusive relationship. The focus was now on success and popularity with out involving emotions. Before, this type of dating, formal courting was for the purpose of finding the "ideal" mate. During the 1930's, "steady" relationships had developed as a stage between casualness of dating and marriage. When a "steady" stage had formed, they dated only each other, which could last for months or maybe just a week. This bond was marked with meaningful rituals, for instance the sharing class rings or letter sweaters/jackets. Romantic love was the only basis for marriage, and you definitely knew when you found "the right one".
Some of the same practices of the twenties and thirties were carried to the years between 1945 and 1960. However, there was a drop in age of the couples marring and there was an increase of marriage in the 40's and early 60's. In the year 1950, the average age for a male marring was 22 and the female 20. This is because dating activities now began at a much lower age, in junior high dating was common. The youth that didn't go to college married soon after graduation, and after 1-2 years of courtship. If women did go to college, they were seen as having only one goal, to "land" a man or getting their "MRS" degree. Parents didn't agree with this new behavior towards dating evolving in the youth because of the increase in pre-marital sexual behavior. The "good" girl however engaged in all form of petting except intercourse, to keep "pure" for their husbands. If women did engage in pre-marital intercourse, she usually intended to marry. Love still was the basis for marriage, which was the most important source of happiness and fulfillment. The single men and women were pitied, because they were thought of lacking happiness in their life.
From the 1960's to the present there have been some drastic changes in the dating. Feminism had a big impact on dating rituals. Women were now empowered more than ever to think of themselves not as just a wife but also a human being. Between the years 1960-1972 the amount of women in colleges greatly increased. The youth culture also began to develop a more liberal attitude towards pre-marital sex. Birth control was now very common for couples to have. The pill went on the market in 1960, and within three years more than 2 million American women were using it. The average first intercourse was now at age 16 for males and age 17 for females. In the year 1980 it was reported that 80% of males and 65% of females have engaged in pre-martial sex. The year 1988 the age of first marriages was now 25.9% male and 23.6 females, which was a huge decrease. Dating and courting was still central features but in the 1970's there wasn't dating as often and the youth began to date at older ages. The average aged female to date in the year 1958 was 13 and in 1978 was 14. In the 1970's and 1980's dating changed and the following ways: there was a greater opportunity for informal opposite sex interaction, dating became less formal, and there was no longer a set progression of stages from first meeting to marriage. In conclusion, the dating system has become more pluralistic over time.
Sociology is the study of society and dating is an integral activity that happens between people in society. It is important to look at dating from a critical point of view using sociology because it is a discipline that is known for deconstructing every day behavior for its meaning in society. Dating is a practice that is highlighted again and again in the popular media. The ways in which people date is effected by the cultural norms of the time and place.
Sociologists look at a particular time and place to understand the ways in which a society works and therefore how the people in that society go about activities like dating. In modern America, dating has emerged as an activity that is not often regulated by adults as it once had been. There are many explanations for this change including the change in lifestyle that industry and technological advances have brought about. Sociologists point out that the idea of romantic love did not even exist prior to the industrial revolution. Marriage was an institution that allowed a man and woman to enhance their chances of survival and quality of life with one another. Romantic love as we now know it did not exist as a concept. After the industrial revolution when people did not depend on each other as much to survive, the idea of romantic love first appeared.
William Willard conducted one of the earliest analyses of American dating patterns. Willard studied Pennsylvania State University students' dating habits and concluded that casual dating was a form of entertainment that had little to do with mate selection. There is a principle that I have found to be the most powerful predictor of how we make our dating and mating selection choices--homogamy. Homogamy is the tendency for dates, mates, and spouses to pair off with someone of similar attraction, background, interests, and needs. This is typically true for most couples.
One of the most influential psychologists in the 1950-1960s was Abraham Maslow and his famous Pyramid of the Hierarchy of Needs (Google: "A Theory of Human Motivation", 1943, Psychological Review 50(4) (1943):370-96). Maslow’s pyramid has been taught in high schools and colleges for decades. Maslow sheds light on how and why we pick the person we pick when choosing a date or mate by focusing on how they meet our needs as a date, mate, or spouse. Persons from dysfunctional homes where children were not nurtured nor supported through childhood would likely be attracted to someone who provides that unfulfilled nurturing need they still have. Persons from homes where they were nurtured, supported, and sustained in their individual growth and development would likely be attracted to someone who promises growth and support in intellectual, aesthetic, or self-actualization (becoming fully who our individual potential allows us to become) areas of life.
It may sound selfish at first glance but we really do date and mate on the basis of what we get out of it (or how our needs are met).
Functions of Dating
Dating among teens serves several crucial functions. First it serves as a form of entertainment. Many teens date to simply hang out and have fun. One major purpose of dating during adolescence is to have fun and amusing experiences. Dating is a form of recreation and enjoyment. Wanting the friendship, acceptance, affection and love of the opposite sex is a normal part of growing up. Dating is also a means of social and personal strength.
Second,dating also helps as a mechanism for socialization. According to a survey dating also enhances identity development and development of empathy. Dating teaches teens about the opposite sex and the proper way to behave in certain situations. It also helps teens to learn appropriate role behaviors and gain a sense of self- concepts.
Third, dating helps attain certain basic psychological needs such as companionship, conversation, acceptance and intimacy. Intimacy is the development of affection, respect, loyalty, mutual trust, sharing, openness, love and commitment.
Fourth function dating serves is attainment of status. In a society that allows people to choose their own marriage partners, people are judged on whom they date. In certain situations, one's status can be elevated or not based on whom one dates.
Finally the last function dating serves is spouse selection. This function comes later on during the dating process. All of these functions serve their own purpose on a dating process. Some adolescent relationships with friends may be superficial while the others may be real close ones. Dating can provide the opportunity for intimacy but whether it will develop varies with individuals and with different pairs. As youths get older dating becomes more as a means of mate sorting and selection, whether the motive is conscious or not.
Positive Effects of Dating for Teenagers
Dating has many positive benefits for teens, even if they easily get carried away with romantic feelings. Appropriate teen relationships lead to maturity in teenagers and a better understanding of adult relationships. Getting this practice in early allows teens to discover what they want and need out of romantic relationships. Through dating, teens gain essential tools in navigating the world and are better able to develop meaningful intimate relationships as adults.
One positive aspect of teenage dating is that it facilitates maturity in teens. Because of dating, teens have a better understanding of how affection and intimacy function within a relationship, according to Gateway, a publication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that is dedicated to teen issues. In turn, they are better able to interact with others, distinguishing intimate feelings from companionate ones. Thus, teens grasp the power and weight of romantic feelings and gain a sense of control over them. By pursuing dating relationships, teens grow in their ability to discern lust from intimacy.
Walking the Line
Boundary setting is a potential benefit of teen dating. Boundaries are important because they determine acceptable treatment. Teens must learn how to create and negotiate boundaries so that they do not become enmeshed or abused in relationships. This particular benefit can manifest as a better understanding of what is acceptable within a relationship or by setting of standard of acceptable partners. These boundaries go on to influence adult relationships and serve as a framework for how relationships function.
Talking the Talk
Communication skills are a necessary component of relationships, which grow in teens when they date. Through communication, teens talk about their needs and demonstrate their feelings, but also listen when their partners do the same. By participating in dating, teens begin to learn how to compromise and cooperate with partners, building on important skills such as active listening and nonverbal messages. They develop the ability to resolve conflict without hostility and negotiate with their partners. By learning communication skills early, teens are better equipped to handle positive dating relationships as adults.
Drawing a Blueprint
Dating gives teens important practice in managing intimate relationships. This practice is an essential skill, which they will hone throughout their adult lives. Teens begin to develop an understanding of how intimate relationships work. They find what factors contribute to successful relationships, but also discover what they need and desire from intimate others. These early dating relationships often lead to fulfilling and caring adult romantic relationships, adding credence to this positive aspect of teenage dating, according to Education.com.
Additional information can be found in the following article Teens and Dating: http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Teens_Dating_Tips/
Additional information on teen dating violence can be found in Break up Violence: Resources for Teens and Parents: