Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Romantic Trends: Seeking Perfection in a Mate, But Also Hooking Up

One of the central ideas of Emerging Adulthood is that young people are taking longer to explore and settle into fully adult roles, than in past generations. One example of this is the increase in the median age at first marriage in the U.S.

Jeffrey Arnett, whose writings introduced the term "Emerging Adulthood" and the set of ideas for studying it, was quoted as follows in a 2005 TIME magazine article on "twixters," a group similar to emerging adults (see page 5 of article).

Arnett is worried that if anything, twixters are too romantic. In their universe, romance is totally detached from pragmatic concerns and societal pressures, so when twixters finally do marry, they're going to do it for Love with a capital L and no other reason. "Everybody wants to find their soul mate now," Arnett says, "whereas I think, for my parents' generation—I'm 47—they looked at it much more practically. I think a lot of people are going to end up being disappointed with the person that's snoring next to them by the time they've been married for a few years and they realize it doesn't work that way."

Another trend among young people in recent years is the phenomenon of "hooking up," as described in this article and a new book cited therein. Hooking up is consistent with the idea that many emerging adults want to delay the establishment of serious romantic relationships -- perhaps to devote more energy to their careers -- but still want to enjoy some physical affection.

One of our graduate students at Texas Tech is planning to start some research on hooking up and Emerging Adulthood.

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