Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Rural Adolescent Boys' Negotiating Heterosexual Romantic Relationships: "We Need to Sacrifice Our Brains"/Relations Romantiques Hétérosexuelles Chez Des Garçons Adolescents De Milieu Rural : « Nous Devons Sacrifier Nos Cerveaux »

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Rural Adolescent Boys' Negotiating Heterosexual Romantic Relationships: "We Need to Sacrifice Our Brains"/Relations Romantiques Hétérosexuelles Chez Des Garçons Adolescents De Milieu Rural : « Nous Devons Sacrifier Nos Cerveaux »

Article excerpt

Adolescent romande relationships have long been regarded as integral to the healthy development of the self and the ability to form adult intimate relationships (Erikson, 1968; Sullivan, 1953). More recently, studies have focused on the effects of family and peer influences on the quality of adolescent romantic relationships (Kinsfogel & Grych, 2004; Roisman, Booth-LaForce, Cauffman, & Spieker, 2009; Seiffge-Krenke, Overbeek, & Vermulst, 2010). Most apposite to the present study, however, gender differences in dating experiences, attitudes, and values of youth themselves have generated increasing attention (Giordano, Longmore, & Manning, 2006; Giordano, Manning, & Longmore, 2010; Smiler, 2008). A large questionnaire survey of Canadian rural adolescents (Cameron et al., 2007) reported a significant divergence between boys' and girls' reported attitudes and behaviours in intimate relationships and boys' lack of confidence in their perception of their own and others' comportment in handling challenging relational issues.

In spite of the developmental significance of dating and intimacy for adolescents, research suggests that a significant gap exists between girls' and boys' experiences, expectations, attitudes, and skills in navigating heterosexual relationships (Collins, 2003; Crockett & Beal, 2012; Giordano et al., 2006; Rose et al., 2012). At the onset of puberty, a shift in relatedness for both girls and boys takes place, with boys preferring close and intimate male friendships (Way, 2011) while girls tend to prioritize romantic relationships and often value making extensive sacrifices for the sake of them (Luft, Jenkins, & Cameron, 2012). Females in particular have been found to focus more than males on intimate heterosexual relationships, indicating heavier investment in creating and maintaining those relationships (Palchykov, Kaski, Kertesz, Barabas, & Dunbar, 2012). With age, boys increasingly tend to expect to enter marriage and become parents later in life whereas, on average, girls expect these transitions into adult roles sooner than boys do (Crockett & Beal, 2012). A deeper understanding of gender differences in adolescent dating and intimacy experiences is necessary to facilitate education and interventions to promote healthy relationship functioning both in adolescence and beyond.

Boys in particular have been the subject of a comparatively small number of studies focusing on psychosocial variables such as dating motivation and heterosexual behaviours. Contrary to popular media images and a common assumption that boys' motivations in romantic relationships are primarily sexual, Smiler (2008) reported that boys' most common reasons for pursuing romantic and intimate relationships were of a relational nature. Smiler found that common factors for beginning relationships were interest-based and that connection-type motivations sustained them, although boys reported physical attraction as a primary value in a dating partner more often than girls. Boys and girls have also been found to report similar levels of love and emotional involvement in their relationships (Giordano et al., 2006). Sexual behaviour in adolescent relationships for both boys and girls, however, is associated with caring and feelings of engagement (Giordano, Manning, et al., 2010). These findings suggest that boys' experiences of adolescent romantic relationships are multifaceted.

Boys' experiences of communication in romantic relationships have also received some recent attention (Giordano et al., 2006; Harper & Welsh, 2007; Rose et al., 2012). Boys report significantly higher levels of awkwardness with regard to communication between both current and previous romantic partners. This may be related to lower reported levels of confidence in navigating their relationships although, overall, they feel quite emotionally involved (Giordano et al., 2006). Furthermore, while girls are more likely to expect that communication will improve their relationship and their self-esteem, boys report that communication feels "weird," uncomfortable, and like a waste of time (Rose et al. …

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