September 5, 2006

Teenage Boys in Love

Who is surprised to learn that teenage boys fall in love, fall hard, and feel one down to the girls in relationships? Dr. Peggy Giordano, one of the three authors of the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study, says that "about 80 percent of teenagers have had a romantic relationship by age 18," so we should be interested in what is really going on in those relationships.

The study, reported in the April issue of American Sociological Review, discovered that, "Girls may be better prepared for those relationships because of more experience with intimate communication with friends. However, boys as well as girls reported feelings of heightened emotions toward their current or most recent romantic partner—contrary to the notion that boys are only looking to “score” and are not emotionally invested in the relationship."

Unlike the confident and sexually oriented males that are the media stereotype, most teen boys are not sexual predators and they get quite emotionally involved. The study also pointed out that the boys report, "significantly lower levels of confidence, as well as greater 'communication awkwardness,' in their romantic relationships."

While difficult, coaching shy boys in the intricacies of relationships, and helping them to develop their emotional vocabulary, would help set them up with a critical life skill. There are mysteries enough in the challenges of relationships, but having the best possible tools would even the odds a bit.


  1. Re Teenaged boys and romance: I've mentored a few boys and been part of a program here in New Zealand called Tracks ( which runs Rite of Passage events. My experience is that for most boys, and that includes even the "not shy" variety, romantic relationships are a heady brew of sexual excitment, idealistic love, infatuation, and big fear around exposing themselves to getting dumped on by girls who tend to be more verbal and have more experience working with emotions. I don't think teenaged girls are necessarily any more mature emotionally then boys, but they do tend to have more experience of feeling emotional states and more experience in how the flow of emotions can be manipulated. that is one of the reasons they can be so imtimidating to boys. In mentoring boys who are experiencing romantic relationships or are having trouble starting a relationship, one of the things I try to do is to get them to look objectively at the qualities of the girl they are infatuated with, or if they don't have a girl at the time, to write down a list of the qualities both positive and negative that they are "looking for" in a girl. A lot of young guys, and indeed older guys, have resistance to this because the stereotype of "falling in love" is being "swept away" and having it happen in a sort of magical bubble. The process of actually looking at the reality of this other person and asking questions like “will this person be kind to me,” can I trust this person,” is this person capable of something more than a superficial relationship,” have a way of turning around the usual questions boys have about girls which are ones like “does she like me,” “am I cool enough to interest her,“ all of which have the effect of putting the girl in a superior position and the boy devaluing himself.

  2. What a solid and very practical contribution. Thanks. In this submission you provide not only very "boy literate" guideance, but great role modeling. Your caring and skill as a man-maker are showing up. Thanks for being you, and for being there for the lucky boys around you. Earl


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