Young people's experiences of 'serious' romantic relationships in late adolescence: 'What is this thing called love?'

Forrest, Simon Peter (2008). Young people's experiences of 'serious' romantic relationships in late adolescence: 'What is this thing called love?'. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis mounts an in-depth exploration of young, white, Scottish people's views and experiences of falling in love with people of the opposite sex in the context of 'serious' romantic relationships formed in their late adolescence. It is located within the sociology of emotion and engages with debates about how emotional experience is shaped and influenced by social interaction, structures, cultural discourses and resources. The principal questions considered are: What array of social-cultural influences are pertinent to understanding these young people's experiences of love and 'serious' relationships? How and in what ways are these influences perceived to be inflecting or constitutive of these young people's experiences? In what ways do these young people's experiences exceed the account made possible through the sociology of emotion and, what possibilities and opportunities are there for elaborating this account?

The study draws principally on data generated through interviews with young people studying for Highers in the sixth year of a secondary school. A grounded approach was used in analysis of these data. Findings include the development of taxonomies of 'serious' relationships which describe their constitutive elements, address the issue of why they are especially pertinent to young people in late adolescence and how this relates to their negotiation of specific social settings, interactions and developmental events. Gender, family and transition emerge as particular salient socio-cultural influences within these young people's accounts of their 'serious' relationships and the nature of each of these is explored in depth.

I argue that the theoretical framework provided by the sociology of emotion has good explicative power in terms of identifying the array of social factors which are likely to be influencing emotional experiences but there is scope both for further research and to employ additional theoretical resources, especially psycho-dynamically inflected thinking, in order to explain emotional experience at the level of individual.

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