Teenage romantic relationships as crucial milestones for the transition to adulthood
It is not unusual for children to experience feelings of love. But at approximately the age of fourteen, teenagers begin actively thinking about love and relationships. At that age the meaning of love begins extending to thoughts of intimacy. The evolution of a desire for intimacy is an important developmental task. The completion of developmental tasks is necessary to step into the arena of adulthood some day.
The task of experiencing intimacy entails high expectations about fulfilling individual hopes and wishes. At the same time, teenagers become more and more aware of current gender roles and they begin having concerns about their physical appearance. These steps are crucial milestones for the transition to adulthood.
Romantic relationships are a training ground for teenagers, a social and personal arena. The goal is to acquire relationship skills in a more simplified way, than in adulthood. Adult relationships usually entail high levels of responsibility, teenagers seek to learn about that responsibility by witnessing it themselves, rather than relying on the teachings of adults around them. At the same time, teenagers have to assume a more adult role among their peers. Having an active relationship can help ensure a certain peer status. Being the adult in a class decreases the chances of being treated like a weaker child and therefore of being bullied.
Parents are often extra cautious around their children, when teenagers become aware of the necessity of forming relationships in life. They begin to worry and to protect them all the more. But a certain balance between freedom and protection is required. Relationships facilitate the experience of emotional stability and safety. They teach bonding, they teach needing and to be needed by someone and they teach reliability. Furthermore, they facilitate self actualization, self sufficiency and independence – important qualities for the development of a personality with a stable self-esteem. Relationships highly correlate with psychological well-being.
A lack of romantic relationships during the teenage years can lead to emotional insecurity and shyness, thereby endangering the integration of teenagers into society. The consequences can very well postpone the introduction of adulthood. Also, they can be carried into adulthood, leading to struggles for the adult to form a loving and intimate relationship.