Evidence that these relationships were socially normative was shown by the finding that in most cases, parents had met their child’s romantic partner and the couples had told others of their romantic status. The importance of sexual and romantic development in understanding the developmental neuroscience of adolescence.
There is limited data on romantic relationships in other developed countries, but existing research suggests similar percentages to the US data, although with somewhat older age groups (e.g. The normative nature of adolescent romantic relationships means that those young people without a girlfriend or boyfriend can feel stressed or ‘different’ (Scanlan et al., 2012).
For example, there can be incongruities between adult bodily appearance, increasing sex drive and the brain development required for mature decision-making and self-regulation of behaviour and emotions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(32), 13281–13286.
The ‘executive functioning’ area of the brain – the prefrontal cortex – is among the last areas of the brain to fully mature, usually sometime in the twenties (Petanjek et al., 2011).
Given that adolescence is a time when there is a great deal of pressure to conform to peer norms, young people who are not linking up romantically can feel lonely and out of step with their peers. On a different advice site (quora.com), this young man similarly questions why he is different: I am 21 and never had a girlfriend. I feel kind of depressed and that I would never have a girlfriend. I’ve asked a couple of girls whom I like to go out with me in the past and they declined.
For example, on the internet site girlsaskguys.com, an anonymous young woman asks: I’ve never had a boyfriend or girlfriend. Of course, not every young person is interested in romantic relationships.
The diary entries of the adolescent love birds showed they had more positive morning and evening moods than the controls, shorter sleep times but better quality sleep, lowered daytime sleepiness and better concentration during the day.
During puberty, the volume of these circulating sex hormones in the body rises dramatically.
In girls, the ovaries increase their production of oestrogen sixfold and in boys, the testes produce 20 times the amount of testosterone.
Both sexes have male and female hormones circulating in the bloodstream, but during adolescence a boy’s testosterone level becomes 20 to 60 per cent higher than that of a girl, while her oestrogen level becomes 20 to 30 per cent higher than his.
These hormones have strong effects on mood and libido. Psychosocial intimacy and identity: From early adolescence to emerging adulthood.
Young people are hormonally ‘primed’ toward being sexually attracted to others but, especially in early adolescence, they are not used to the feelings associated with the rapid increases and fluctuations in their hormone levels.