Love Relationships among College Students

Article excerpt

Data from one-hundred-eighty-four undergraduates at a large southeastern university revealed that 94% have experienced a love relationship. Young (age 19 and under) undergraduates were significantly (p [is less than] .03) more likely to believe in "love at first sight" and "love conquers all" than older (age 20 and older) undergraduates. Current involvement in a love relationship was also significantly associated (p [is less than] .01) with the romantic belief that love conquers all. Family life educators and therapists might be aware that age and relationship experience may impact romantic love beliefs.

"Love is the sweetest thing, what else on earth could ever bring Such happiness to everything, as love's old story?" are the lyrics to an old love song "Love's Story to You." Popular music ("All You Need Is Love" "What's Love Got to do with It?"), movies (Titanic, Bridges of Madison County), and television dramas (Dawson's Creek) continue to emphasize the importance of love relationships in one's life. This study focused on romantic beliefs among a sample of college students.

Data

Data were obtained by questionnaire from 184 undergraduates at East Carolina University enrolled in two Courtship and Marriage classes. Sixty-eight percent of the respondents were women; 32% men. Seventy-four percent of the respondents were freshman or sophomores; 26% were juniors and seniors. The median age was 19.

Findings

Love was a common experience among these respondents. Ninety-four percent reported that they had been in love before with over a third (36%) reporting 3 or more love relationships. While the median number of love relationships was 2, over ten percent reported five or more love partners.

Experiencing the end of a love relationship was also a common experience among these respondents. Eighty-four percent reported that they had ended one or more love relationships. Sixty-two percent reported that they had experienced the termination of a love relationship by their partner. No significant differences in sex or age of respondent were found for being in or experiencing the end of a love relationship.

Romantic beliefs of the respondents were also explored. One romantic belief about love is "love at first sight." Younger respondents (those 19 and under) were significantly (p [is less than] .03) were more likely than older respondents (those 20 or older) to believe that "You can fall in love the first time you see someone." Indeed, over half (54%) of the younger group, verses about a third (36%) of the older group believed in "instant love."

Another romantic belief is that "love conquers all." Again, younger students were significantly (p [is less than] .02) more likely than older students to agree that "All problems can be solved if there is enough love." The percentages were 61% versus 43%, respectively, of the younger and older respondents who believed that "love conquers all."

Analysis of the data also revealed that one's relationship status is associated with one's belief in the power of love to solve all problems. Respondents who were currently involved in a relationship were significantly (p [is less than] .01) more likely to agree that "love conquers all" than those who were not involved in a relationship. Sixty-two percent of those who were currently involved in a relationship agreed that "All problems can be solved if there is enough love" in contrast to 42% who were not currently involved in a relationship. No significant differences between women and men were observed in regard to believing in "love at first sight" and "love conquers all."

Discussion

These data confirm, update, and extend the literature on love and intimate relationships. Previous researchers have documented the universal importance of love in relationships. Jankowiak and Fischer (1992) conducted a study of romantic love cross-culturally and found that 89% of the 166 societies they studied had evidence of passionate love (love songs in the culture, elopement due to mutual affection, etc. …

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