Lasting love? Research on Making and Breaking Romantic Relationships

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4264611133_b9cfdd8566_zRomance is in the air. Vacation getaways, cool breezes, and warm nights can set the scene for a good, old fashioned ‘summer fling.’ In celebration of love and the summer, here is some romance-centric science to round out the season:

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; however, researchers have found beauty may also be in the face of the beholder.  In a recent study, researchers discovered that we prefer partners who most resemble ourselves! The authors recruited over 20 couples and morphed each partner’s face in different ways: a morph with a prototypical female, one with a prototypical male, and a morph blending the participants’ faces with that of their mates.  Using a ranking system, they found that participants clearly preferred their partner’s face when it resembled their own over all other facial morphs. This research provides insight into what may attract us to our summer flings, but how about their longevity?

Conflict resolution is key to the stability of adult relationships; however, we have little understanding of how conflict resolution affects teen relationships.  In a study published this spring, researchers sought to discover if successfully resolving conflicts predicts whether a teen relationship will last. The authors interviewed 80 teenage couples and observed each of them during a confrontation.  They then followed up with the couples over the next four years. During this analysis, the researchers discovered that adolescents who successfully resolved conflicts were not more likely to stay together then the couples who struggled through conflict resolution. Factors such as peer-groups, personality changes, and other causes may be more likely to influence the success of an adolescent relationship.

But what becomes of adult couples who can’t resolve conflicts? Researchers found that the quality of a person’s romantic relationship may predict the likelihood of depression.  The authors analyzed survey data, including a ten-year follow-up, from nearly five thousand adults.  The initial analysis outlined the quality of social and romantic relationships, assessing the individual’s social support and strain.  In the follow-up survey, the researchers analyzed the quality of a participant’s relationship with their partners, family, and friends to assess social stress or support. Through this analysis, they found that strained romantic relationships increased the risk for depression more than stressed friendships or family relationships.

From physical preference, to conflict resolution, to depression, these research articles give us a glimpse of what shapes our romantic choices. For more PLOS ONE articles on the topic of love, visit our website

Citations:

Laeng B, Vermeer O, Sulutvedt U (2013) Is Beauty in the Face of the Beholder? PLoS ONE 8(7): e68395. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068395

Ha T, Overbeek G, Lichtwarck-Aschoff A, Engels RCME (2013) Do Conflict Resolution and Recovery Predict the Survival of Adolescents’ Romantic Relationships? PLoS ONE 8(4): e61871. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061871

Teo AR, Choi H, Valenstein M (2013) Social Relationships and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up from a Nationally Representative Study. PLoS ONE 8(4): e62396. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062396

Image: Lovers embracing on the beach at sundown / sunset on Morro Strand State Beach by Mike Baird

 

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