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Ideal Dating Styles and Meanings of Romantic Relationships Among White and Latino High School Students: A Multi-Method Approach

by Rankin, Lela Antoinette.

Abstract (Summary)
The conceptualization of intimacy within adolescent romantic relationships has typically taken a linear approach: Adolescents experience initial romantic encounters within a group context and progress towards an exclusive dyadic dating relationship. This study uses a person-centered approach and conceptualizes adolescent romance as multidimensional. In Study 1, a large, nationally representative dataset (the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health) was used to classify 10th and 11th grade adolescents into ideal romantic relationship styles via Latent Class Analysis. Four classed emerged: Concealers (3.6%; n=276), Abstainers (32.6%; n=2508), Engagers (51.4% of the sample; n= 3955), and Family Builders (12.5%; n=959). Concealers, primarily non-White ethnicities, preferred low social/emotional involvement but moderate sexual activities. Most adolescents with same-sex attractions were concealers. Concealers reported the greatest miss-match between ideal and real relationship activities. Abstainers, predominantly females, preferred: high social/emotional activities, to talk less about contraception/STDs, and low sexual activities. Engagers, predominantly male and White, scored highest on all social, emotional, and physical activities (exception of ‘seeing less of friends’, ‘sex’, ‘pregnancy’, and ‘marriage’). Family builders, overly-represented by Latino, preferred high social, emotional, and physical dimensions including seeing less of friends, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and marriage. Moderate discrepancies occurred between ideal and real activities. 15 Study 2 was a focus group study of White and Latino adolescents (N=75) entering 10th through 12th grades. Using a symbolic interactionism theoretical framework, adolescents described four types of sexual relationships within their social subjective realities: Going-out, dating, friends with benefits, and hooking up. Going-out relationships, an exclusive and emotionally/physically close relationship, were the most easily described and the most intense and committed relationships. Dating relationships, however, were the most common type of sexual relationship and were less easily defined, partially due to the ambiguity of the relationship itself which is to ‘get to know each other’. These relationships were somewhat exclusive and required less obligations. Friends with benefits (primarily physical relationships) and hooking up (single physical encounters) were casual relationships that required little to no commitment. Findings are interpreted via a developmental/feminist lens. Gender inequality and sexual double standards are potent forces that continue to shape adolescent’s sexual behaviors, feelings, and experiences. 16
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School:The University of Arizona

School Location:USA - Arizona

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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