Psychologists are fascinated with investigating in romantic relationships. Based on the Evolutionary Approach, us humans are meant to be going around passing on our genes to as many partners as possibles, without commitments and to be bonded with one individual. So, why are romantic relationships are formed? The answer for this question been investigated from several different approach in Psychology.

There are evidences suggesting early Attachments of infants would affect later romantic relationships. Avoidantly attached people indicate that they are uncomfortable being close to others, find it difficult to completely trust and depend on others, and are nervous when anyone gets too close (Simpson 1990).  However, the problem of linking up early Attachment and romantic relationship is that most studies in this area is correlational, making it hard to establish cause and effect.

Evolutionary approach explain it differently. It suggests that if the father is bonded into a relationship, and not going around for finding another partner, he can use his time and resources to help the rearing of his child. This increases the child’s chance of survival, also the possibility to pass on the gene successfully.

As an extend of the Biological Approach, there are also evidences suggesting there are neuronal effect in romantic relationships. Serotonin-enhancing antidepressants (SSRIs) can jeopardize one’s ability to feel romantic passion for a new partner or a deep attachment for a long attachment for a long-term mate (Fisher, 2004; Fisher and Thomson, in press). Once again, the problem of connection between neuronal with romantic relationship is Cause and Effect. We are yet to find if SSRIs cause people to feel romantic passion for individuals, or romantic passion for individuals cause the release of SSRIs.

Despite investigation in romantic relationships can bring good implication, however, we should be caution during the investigating in our studies. We should be aware some participants may feel distress when looking back into past relationships, and may not want to share the bad experiences they possibly had. Appropriate ways of researching would be self-report or questionnaires, as participants may not feel the same amount of pressure comparing methods such as Interviews. However, it is worth to be aware that with using methods such as self-report, participants may get biased to themselves when discussing romantic relationships.


J.A. Simpson (1990).  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1990, Vol. 59, No. 5 , 973.

R.J. Sternberg., Karin Weis (2006). The new psychology of love. Page 103.


About eugenekitfung

An undergraduate student in Bangor University who lives in Normal Site. NORMAL SITE, TRA LA LA LA!

5 responses »

  1. knoble19 says:

    The Continuity Hypothesis is concerned with our early relationships with our primary caregivers which provide the basis for later romantic relationships. This hypothesis was derived from Bowlby’s suggestion of an ‘internal working model’ which develops in a baby’s first relationship.
    However, researchers such as Feener and Noller (1992) have suggested that relationship styles in adulthood can vary, so the same individual could be secure in a relationship with one partner but later insecure in another relationship. This challenges the idea that attachment styles are consistent across different relationships.
    In addition, Rutter, Quinton and Hill (1999) identified a group of people who had experienced problematic relationships with their parents but had gone on to achieve secure and happy adult relationships, which they termed ‘earned security’. These pieces of research indicate that early attachments are not the only factors which influence security in adult relationships and question the validity of the Continuity Hypothesis.
    Overall, I agree with your statement about it being difficult to establish cause and effect as Hartup et al (1993) argued that researchers know surprisingly little about the extent of cross-age linkages between attachments and later relationship experiences.

  2. I agree that whatever the case, how a participant may be feeling e.g upset about past relationships must be considered in order to make sure any research is as ethical as possible.
    Thibaut and Kelley (1995) suggested the “Social Exchange Theory” as a factor in the formation of romantic relationships which assumes that every social exchange that people make in order to maximize the benefits of a relationship and minimize the costs, eg companionship, security and sex, time investment, financial investment and stress. The benefits minus the cost give the outcome of a relationship and if what is left over is a portion of the benefits a relationship is more likely to be successful.
    I also agree that the most appropriate way to test a theory on relationships would be via questionnaire or self report as it is the easiest way to collect data that is most likely to prove impartial.
    You also have to consider the cultural aspects when investigation relationships as different cultures find different aspects of a potential mate more attractive than others.

  3. As children we depend on or crave that love and care that we may or may not recieve from a primary care giver. Eric Berne created the transactional analysis theory, which described our natural drive towards developing a relationship. It can also be linked with the psychodynamic theory. We crave relationships to give us love, security, closeness, and intimate physical contact with another person (E. Berne,Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, 1964).
    You could have included theories such as the social exchange theory which looks at the relationship being formed and maintained in terms of rewards and costs (Emerson, 1976). The equity theory states that generally, people are most happiest in a relationship when the rewards and costs are equal for both individuals, (J. S. Adams, 1963)
    Personally I think it can depend on the individual, as each case if different. Some may put more into a relationship while expecting minimal returns. Also, someone that had a secure attachment with a primary care giver when they were younger could go on to form relationships, yet if the situation changes and the individual is hurt by the partner or loses the partner unwillingly, then they may be hestitant when forming relationships in the future and can have damaged trust. An interesting blog topic.

  4. ln1992 says:

    relationships have been something that have interested psychologists for many years, why we chose the people we do and why something relationships dont work and others do. one of the main theories about aldult romantic relationships is attachment styles. Simpson (1990) found that those with secure attachment types had better levels of commitment, trust and satisfaction. Avoidant styles would tend to have more negative feelings. This was a longitudinal study using 144 dating couples, so the sample size was large for a study of its nature, however sample drop off could have caused a problem for the researchers and some data may have been lost.

    Simpson, J.A. (1990). Influence of attachment styles on romantic relationships.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 59(5), Nov 1990, 971-980. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.59.5.971

  5. DJPsych says:

    Relationships have been explored, probed and fantasised about for many years. Yet still no one has come to a popular conclusion for what this attraction is, or why it even exists in the way it does. Personally I favour the explanation that in essance, we are all just seeking to produce offspring. Okay, not because to me that just sounds fun, but more because that, amongst a few basic other things, is all we are programmed to do; after all, without doing this our race would soon die out – We are only all animals.
    However with the introduction of language to human-kind, society has developed its own understanding of what it is to be in a relationship and this seems to be shedding a whole new light on the matter. Though with all this extra knowledge, I believe society has fanticised so much that it has lost the original meaning of a relationship – To reproduce. It has now become about making yourself happy, making others happy and in some cases surviving the ever changing economic climate. In my opinion, let’s get back to basics!

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