American Stigmatization of Young Love, Past and Present

American parents tend to hope that their children become successful, happy adults and acknowledge that part of said happiness comes from finding true, deep, life-long love. In the pursuit of this kind of true love, people are expected to date many people until they find the person that they want to spend the rest of their lives with. But what if they find true love as a child by legal standards (which identify that legal adulthood happens at age 18)? Why is a culture that is known for its advocacy of freedom and emphasis on romantic love so opposed to the idea of a minor finding a relationship that fulfills both of these qualities?

Boasian Cultural Anthropology focuses on “Historical Particularism” which is meant to focus on historical perspectives. From a Boasian perspective, it can be inferred that the stigmatization of young love comes from a historically deeply rooted connection between teen love and sex, potentially leading to pregnancy. In the early 1990s (and still) teen pregnancy was a huge concern because it was believed to lead to poverty and all of its negative implications. A fear had been instilled in American adults that if their children were in relationships, committed or not, that they are having sex with their partner because of various studies on teen sexuality and Hollywood depictions of relationships involving sex. This fear becomes even more developed in parents whose children say that they are in love with their significant other, again most likely because of Hollywood depictions of young, loving relationships involving sex and thus the idea that love is/ought to be expressed through sex. Teen relationships, love, and sex hadn’t been as big of a concern in America earlier in the twentieth century within any sub-culture because teen parents were expected to get married and raise their child together – building lives for themselves in the same way they might have anyway, just at a faster pace, thus diverting the poverty effect that came later in the ‘90s from un-married teen parents.

Functionalism on the other hand, is synchronic, focusing on the present aspects of a culture. Typical questions asked of modern young people who say they are in love are, “How do you know you’re in love? Do you even know what love is?” But the same can be asked of anyone at any age. So where does this skepticism come from? In a Functionalist/ current context, it can be assumed that much modern parental skepticism toward their children being in love at a young age is fear of their children “growing up.” Studies on cognitive development stating that teens are incapable of having meaningful relationships because of their hormonal changes during puberty have fed these parental fears and legitimized their arguments against minors being in love. Current research on young relationships has become so focused on human biology and neurology and countless other “ologies” that the human capacity and need for true love has been forgotten.

— Alex F.

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68 Responses to American Stigmatization of Young Love, Past and Present

  1. Alex Bayer says:

    Alex, I thought your essay on love was very interesting. I found myself thinking what might a Linguistic Anthropologist say when looking at the media influence on young love in America?

    • Amy Austin says:

      Alex B, in response to your question about how a linguistic anthropologist would approach this topic, I find it interesting to examine the different definitions of love which exist within the Greek language. It is a shame that English only has one word to describe this emotion that can occur in such a variety of contexts and hold such different meanings.

      The type of love portrayed through modern day American media I believe to be best defined by the Greek word eros, a passionate love with sensual desire and longing. Many young teens in America who believe they are “in-love” with their partner are often experiencing this heightened sexual attraction and therefore equate that to deeper meanings of love.

      Most older generations equate the idea of being in love with someone to the Greek word agape, meaning unconditional and compassionate love. They identify this as the true type of love that exists between partners and that it can only be developed over time and with maturity.

      Therefore, this discussion is an argument of semantics and provides evidence that the English language itself is provoking this issue because of its limited vocabulary on this topic. This is exactly the kind of thing a linguistic anthropologist would be interested in, especially related to media’s characteristic portrayal of solely the eros type of love.

      • Anastasia Turner says:

        Amy, I was very intrigued by your linguistic approach to the subject of the paper. While reading your response though words like affection, lust, etc. continued to come to mind. I will agree with you that the English language has its limits when it comes to love but I don’t feel that love is the only term. I also thought of the idea that although majority of adults view love from agape perspective, is it not possible for them to also feel eros? Therefore can teenagers not also feel both eros and agape forms of love simultaneously?

  2. Elliot Roberts says:

    Very well written essay with a good use of Boasian perspectives. It’s true that up to the later part of the 20th century a majority of American families maintained a stigma against the notion of young love, which is most likely a product of a tabooed attitude towards sex. I wonder if views towards young love will begin to change as our culture becomes more open to sex in both practice and conversation.

    • Zoe Adelman says:

      In relation to your idea about how there has been a stigma against the notion of young love, I think it would be interesting to look at this part of culture through music. I think of artists like Elvis who brought a completely new aspect of music to the industry at that time. Parents thought his music was very sexual and inappropriate for their children. However, the lyrics of many songs today and much more vulgar and provocative than Elvis Presley. I am curious how big of an effect the music industry has had on the transformation of sexual and sexual norms throughout history. Or, perhaps it is the transformation of sexual norms that has allowed music to evolve and had more sexual connotations.

      • Rebecca Oliver says:

        I think your comment about the music industry is really interesting in relation to this paper. Today popular music is definitely more up front about sex, and I believe it to have a very strong influence on our culture today. However, regarding love and marriage I think that a lot of the popular artists are urging (through their music) for the youth to remain free and avoid commitment. Historically it seems that people group sex and love together, but I think that more than ever, music is trying to separate the two.

      • Courtney O'Rourke says:

        First, I think its important to address where the stigmatization of sex comes from in America. Elliot describes this as a ‘tabooed attitude toward sex’ but where and how does this idea cultivate into American society? I think a lot of negative social view on sexuality can be connected to religious belief. Especially in the popular western monotheistic religions, there is often an association between sexuality and immorality that normalizes into the thoughts and perceptions of wider society.
        Secondly, Zoe- I liked your connection of young love stigmatization to music. This got me to thinking about the sense of teenage ‘rebelliousness’ in general. It seems to be a trend in American history where teenagers create new cultural forms of expression that gains disapproval from older generations (beatniks, for example) . I wonder if this is a result of trying to create a new sense of identity that differentiates themselves from their parent’s generation, by using cultural aspects like music and young love.

      • kellyloud says:

        I have to agree with Rebecca. I love the insight that you brought in from the music industry, especially with such young artists like Miley Cyrus releasing suggestive music videos. It also makes me want to see, Elliot, what you could do with shows like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and how they treat the concept of teenage sexuality and parenting. It seems to me that the concept of parenthood, at such a young age is viewed with a negative and positive light, depending on the situation. Also, thoughts on the Mary Kay Letourneau type situation? How does the situation change when the ages of both the parties change?

    • Brian Ruddle says:

      Good argument Elliot, personally I would like to learn more on how the change in sexual taboos may be related to the increase in divorce rates, and the increase in STI prevalence. Also with the changes in the sexual taboos, does our very definition of “young love” need to change as well? At what point does “love” no longer mean what it used to in America?

    • andersca316 says:

      I think even if our culture becomes more open to sex in both practice and conversation we still won’t see much change with these views. I think there will always be a fear that parents have when their children are “in love”. I don’t know if I agree if the fear is based on kids growing up to fast but more of a fear that most parents want what is best for their children and becoming a young parent is not one of those things that is considered good for a teenaged person. this Idea follows more along the lines of the historical particularism method and i tend to agree with that more then a functionalism method.

  3. Kate Barry says:

    I enjoyed this topic and paper very much. To touch on what Alex said above, linguistic anthropologists focus on how language forms social identities and they could focus on magazines geared towards teenagers. Many of these magazines use the same language that teenagers use while talking to their friends and they focus on how to appeal to the opposite sex. This directly effects teenagers and promote them to interact sexually with others because they read it over and over in magazines. The linguistics of the magazines are important because it makes the magazine more attractive to the youth and are able to influence them.

    • Veronica Vang says:

      I liked how you used Linguistic Anthropology on this because as you said, “magazines use the same language that teenagers use while talking to their friends.” By doing this, magazines attract more teens to talk about topics of love, sex, physical appearance etc..

      However, I also find that these magazines also influence and encourage teens to become the perfect “beauty” in order to obtain love. I see this by how magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan, always have on their front cover phrases/quotes that talk about love, sex, tips on beauty, how to dress correctly etc in addition to a famous celebrity on the front page.

    • Kara Gibson says:

      You make a good argument concerning the media and even though it is widely known that it influences youth, it can sometimes be unclear as to what extent this occurs. Maybe because teens are so bombarded with sexual language and the pressure to communicate with the opposite sex (almost exclusively) they are more likely to experience early thoughts of love. So much emphasis is placed on finding a soul mate, especially in today’s media dominated environment, that maybe that is the reason so many young people are finding “true love” early. This also raises the question about how genuine these feelings are, or have they been warped by the perceptions of love that are being broadcasted continuously in public forums. Is this love coming naturally or is it being forced?

  4. H. Innes says:

    I think this essay has a lot of merit. The young love developed by Hollywood standards is a major issue in today’s American society. I think another aspect of this argument would be the high divorce rates also present in this society. How many teen parents stay together, let alone how many older couples? Another side is how long the couples have been together. Many couples get married too soon which can lead to an early divorce. Having sex too early in the relationship could lead to an ever-present feeling of obligation to get married sooner. Do these young couples “love” too soon without knowing what love can really mean?

    • Zoe Adelman says:

      I think it’s interesting that you mention divorce. Especially in the United States, divorce is an ever-growing epidemic. In fact, today in the U.S. it is commonly said that around 50% of marriages end in divorce. Looking at this through a marxist point of view might be interesting. I am curious if there are certain social classes or religious groups that are more likely to get divorced than others. Is money a factor? Do certain religious or family expectations prevent or discourage divorce more than others? I also wonder if this growing rate of divorce, especially during our parents generation, will cause our generation to be more cautious in our choice of a life partner, or if the rate of divorce will continue to increase with out generation.

      • Courtney O'Rourke says:

        Continuing on the topic of divorce and the economy, I think a huge factor in increasing divorce rates is the increasing economic independence of women. This could be a good topic for a feminist or Marxist anthropologist, but I definitely can see a connection between women who join the workforce and are less economically dependent on their husbands and higher divorce rates. I think that overall, divorce is more common where woman have a sense of independence or support. For example, in matriarchs and matrilocal residence patterns, there is a higher rate of divorce than in patriarchal societies. Woman in matriarchal societies are not solely dependent on their husbands, but rather have a family support system that she can lean on for financial support if she wants a divorce. Therefore, the more independence a woman feels like she has, the more likely divorce becomes an option or solution to an unhappy marriage.

        This also applies to Jordan’s essay on the Moroccan polygamous marriages. In his essay, he describes a shift away from polygamous marriages in Morocco. One reason being that woman no longer find it as economically advantageous. I wonder if the same cause(woman’s increasing economic independence) that is increasing divorce rates in the US could also be a factor in a very distant culture, such as altering marriage practices in Morocco.

    • Tanya Fink says:

      I was really intrigued by your question you posed at the end of your post. “Do these young couples “love” too soon without knowing what love can really mean?”

      Young relationships have evolved incredible amounts in the past century. What used to be courtship and modesty have turned into hook-ups and random sex. Adolescents are exposed to sexuality earlier on through movies, TV, magazines, and Hollywood. This bombardment of crude sexuality taints the word love. Love is a process. What initially was a long step by step journey starting with courtship, friendship, then evolving into a physical relationship tends to skip straight to physical within one night of meeting someone. We grapple with what love is because love is no longer a process. Of course this is a big generalization. I know many people who have been in love, and went through a process. But with casual sex and drunken hook-ups, relationships form in a new way. A way that needs to be redefined within our culture.

  5. Hannah Limov says:

    I loved this essay! As young adults it is such a frustrating situation to be in when your parents demean your relationships because they are not as “mature” or “developed” as theirs. From this, it would be interesting to view this issue through the lens of a Cultural Evolutionist anthropologist. It may be that because our society is more “evolved” (obviously ethnocentric, but for the terms of an cultural evolutionist, let’s roll with it) economically than others that we no longer see the need to marry as young, forcing the culture to view young marriages/romantic involvements as unnecessary and thus culturally prohibited.
    And I loved how you brought up the idea of hormones prohibiting young love. As shown by Margaret Meade with her studies in Samoa, much of our ideas about adolescents regarding love and sexuality is completely cultural, not biologically ingrained. So, really, how much is it true that adolescents cannot create meaningful and lasting relationships? Is this ideology something we should try to dissect and potentially destroy?

    • Allison Metzger says:

      Hannah, you bring up a very interesting point and I had not thought of this circumstance through the lens of a Cultural Evolutionist. I agree with you, that we have shifted away from a culture of marrying young and many early relationships are often discouraged in our society. If the argument is that our society is more “evolved”, it would suggest that people are most focused on receiving a proper education and finding a life-long career, and thus romanticism falls to the wayside. Perhaps parent’s are concerned not only because they view adolescent love as “foolish” or “insincere”, but also because parents do want what is best for their child. A generation that has fought for the opportunities we now have today, might view the idea of settling down at such a young age as a hinderance to the process of becoming an accomplished and successful adult. Our culture has taken a step away from the pattern of marrying young and is now more focused economic development, and then enjoying marriage and family later on. These are all characteristics of a society that is more “developed” and is less focused on settling down and starting a family so early on.
      I also agree with your second statement, and your example of Margaret Meade’s work seems extremely relevant in this scenario. A person’s sexuality and take on love is an extremely cultural thing that cannot be predetermined by biology. Culture varies across time and space but also varies between individuals. It is silly to make ignorant assumptions about how people practice and engage in all aspects of love, whether it be romantic or sexual. I do think think the idea that young people cannot create genuine and long-term relationships is something that we need to move away from. Love can only be defined by the individual and it is ultimately a personal and cultural choice.

  6. Anna Hermann says:

    I think that so many parents are worried about their children focusing on themselves, focusing on their development and growth as a person they are simply afraid of how relationships and love could stunt that and potentially cause harm to them. I’m not saying I necessarily agree with that perspective, I certainly believe that teens need to experience what they want and will not let their parents define their love lives. Responding to what Hannah said, I’m pretty sure thoughts about teenage hormones do play a major role in parent’s (and society’s, for the matter) response to young love, but arguable hormones can affect anyone at any stage of life (our hormones are constantly changing and always tempting us to do things we probably shouldn’t). Maybe it’s more the fear that adult hormones are present before we socially deem these teenagers as adults?

  7. H. Innes says:

    To Anna Herman – I believe your first statement is a wise observation. However, I think that much of it depends on individual circumstance.
    Some young people have not matured as much as others and their parents recognize that and thus try to get them to branch out. On the other hand, some have matured greatly at a younger age. I have a friend (19 years old now) who has been dating her boyfriend since age 15. They are a very mature couple, not just thinking about themselves, have strong family ties, and care deeply about other people. Their parents are quite happy with their relationship, even knowing it includes sex because they have children who are very responsible adults. Now, people who do not know this couple well may think they should not be together anymore or will not be together forever solely based on their age and their preconceptions of relationships like that; this opinion has a valid basis in that person’s individual history.

  8. Jordie Karlinski says:

    I really enjoyed reading your essay and I thought your topic was well though out. I agree with you in both your uses of Boasian Anthropology and Functionalism. It is frustrating when adults or anyone older than you questions your ‘love’ life and assumes you are not ready for love or don’t even know what love is really about. Many adults think kids aren’t ready to love because we are still maturing, and that is not always the case. It is true that society has changed from back in the day when young adults married and had children earlier than people today, but that doesn’t mean young adults don’t know how to love at a younger age than adults.

  9. Mia Sadowsky says:

    I agree that your approach to both Boasian and Functionalism were well thought out and in general, very true of parents views on teen love. Your main points for both Boasian Anthropology and Functionalism focus mainly on parent’s critical view of teen love and young pregnancy. I think it would be interesting to incorporate what measures were and are taken by parents to prevent their children from having serious relationships, and what measures are taken by parents to prevent teen pregnancy. Because Boasian Anthropology focuses on historical particularism you could add in how parents and Americans in general viewed contraception in the early to mid twentieth century and how contraception is viewed in our today.

    • Zoe Adelman says:

      Adding to your idea of contraception, I think it would also be interesting to look at how this changes worldwide. Birth control is very accepted and even encouraged in the United States, but in other parts of the world it is not only discourage, but often scorned upon. Also, birth control would be an interesting topic to approach from an Economic Anthropology approach. The birth rate is often higher in lower income families, both in the United States and worldwide. I am curious is this is most attributed to a lower education and understanding of birth control, or if it is based more on difference in income.

  10. Kaitlyn Clure says:

    I enjoyed reading your essay, it really made me think about love, relationships, and teens. While reading, the popular TV show “Teen Mom” came to my mind. Today teens are saying they are ‘falling in love’ and having sex, many of which are becoming pregnant. You stated, “Teen relationships, love, and sex hadn’t been as big of a concern in America earlier in the twentieth century within any sub-culture because teen parents were expected to get married and raise their child together – building lives for themselves in the same way they might have anyway, just at a faster pace, thus diverting the poverty effect that came later in the ‘90s from un-married teen parents.” I believe this has changed, quite recently in the past years. After teens have children, they are getting divorced, if they were married, and if they weren’t they are splitting up. I believe that in the twentieth century it was expected of people to stay together when they had a child, therefore it was more common and more accepted. Now days, it is different, and people are not getting married and not expected to stay together, in fact most don’t. From a functionalist view I believe parents are not afraid of their child growing up, but that their child’s “young life” will potentially be over.

    • Zoe Adelman says:

      I like that you chose to mention “Teen Mom”. I think this is an interesting addition to our culture over the past few years. The fact that it is still airing shows that there is quite an interest in the show. Although it shows that being a teen mom isn’t always easy, I think in many ways it almost glamorizes being a teen mom at the same time. Regardless, being a teen mother seems to be a growing fascination in our culture. I think it would be interesting to look into why this is. You don’t see shows airing of 30 year old women who are raising children alone, even if their lives are just as difficult.

  11. Holly Zink says:

    Interesting topic!
    A similar question arose when writing my Love essay concerning age disparity in relationships, frequently referred to as “May-December Marriages.”
    From a Boasian perspective, one could view the stigmatization of teen romance/marriages from an economic standpoint: young women were not economically autonomous until very recently, so they relied upon male figures around them for care. If a younger woman married a younger man – who hasn’t had time to become financially stabilized and able to support the woman and her children – this could be disastrous for the young couple.

  12. Mackenzie Clarkson says:

    I wonder how parenting has changed that makes kids “mature slower” and changes teens preparedness for “adult relationships,” perhaps from a feminist anthropology viewpoint women are no longer generalized as baby machines and there may be a traditional process that holds out in parents’ minds of: love=sex=babies (and maybe some marriage in there), but in this modern American society parents want their child to develop more as an individual before embarking on the family journey. Ironically I think many of us see a love relationship as an expression of individualism as who we choose to love is a huge representation of freedom.

    It’s possible too, that greater access to birth control and abortion, and the greater discussion of it in major media areas, has led to a new conception of young teens. I think it’s safe to say that teens have been having pre-marital sex forever, but only recently in our country have these things become transparent in popular society.

    • Dana Melby says:

      Although I do believe modern parenting techniques are aimed at allowing children to mature slower, it seems to me that it is having the opposite effect in terms of sexual expression. While teens are allowed to find themselves and not forced into predetermined roles as often as in the past, it appears that teens are reaching sexual “maturity” younger and younger ages. I think the line you draw between love and individualism is an interesting one. With that perspective it makes sense that teens should love more because as they find who they truly are they will love different types of people along the way. Even reflecting on my own life the boys I loved when I was 14 up until the men I love today have changed as I have grown and matured.

  13. Kelsey Robb says:

    I agree that the media probably plays a large role in sculpting the fears that parents have about their children having sexual relationships, but only because of the media’s influence on younger generations. Hollywood movies place ideas of sexual relationships in kid’s minds because it’s seen as the “cool” thing to do and I think this is why parents worry. I also think that a Boasian anthropologist focusing on historical particularism wouldn’t see young love as disgraceful. I think they would see it as fairly normal because in past centuries, it was more common for people to marry young (in some cases very young) and procreate. If we’re looking at past generations, young love and teen pregnancy is not all that uncommon. The only difference is that it was more socially accepted then, than it is now.

    • Jodye Whitesell says:

      I really enjoyed this essay because of how thought-provoking it was both during and after reading it. The first thing that came to my mind when I first read this was the film Juno. When that film was first released I found the public’s reaction absolutely fascinating. Here was a film blatantly dealing with the issue of teen sex and pregnancy in an up-front, comedic way and the amount of shock that created for some audiences seemed to me more of a representation of our culture’s perceptions of sex than the film itself. Certainly, film and the media have a large influence on audiences, especially children and teens who are in the stage of cognitive development where imprinting and self-discovery are at their highest, but I think that the reaction to said film/media can have just as much impact. It seems as if negative reactions attempt to hide the issue rather than deal with it which, in my mind, makes it into a much larger problem. To analyze this more fully, I would look to Symbolic Anthropology to delve into the symbolism circulating love and sex as portrayed in film (how the two acts interact with each other) in addition to how criticism and reactions stand in society as symbols for an overall cultural perception of how best to handle the issue.

  14. danieltpeterson says:

    I really enjoyed your paragraph on the functionalist perspective. The question of whether or not adults even know what love is brings an important point. I believe that it is completely possible for people to fall in love at a young age. Regardless, it is important that younger people remember the values of love and to take it slowly. If you are so certain that you have found the person you love at a young age, then why rush? You should have your entire lives together, a long time to let your relationship grow.

  15. Zoe Adelman says:

    Alex, I really liked this essay. I thought it brought to the surface many ideas about love, specifically in the United States, that aren’t often talked about. On the contrary, it is seen as the norm and therefore not questioned. I think it would be interesting to look at the idea of love in more depth over the past 100 years. It used to be assumed that most people would marry directly out of college (or high school). However, today it is more normal to get married in your late 20s or 30s. Although the average life expectancy may have slightly increased in the last 100 years, it hasn’t improved so drastically that it would necessarily alter the expected marriage age by 10 or more years. I would be interesting in knowing what is what that altered this American custom. Also, it would be interesting to look at this through a Feminist Anthropology point of view. It used to be normal for women only to go to college so that they could find a well-educated man to support them. However, today more than half of college students in the United States are women. Perhaps part of the change in marriage age is due to the fact that women have become more more empowered in the last 100 years and now want to have a career after college, rather than immediately getting married and having children.

  16. Brenda Camenga says:

    Unfortunately, many other people brought up points that immediately came to my mind as soon as I read your paper- which by the way was great. I believe Kaitlyn was the first person to mention “Teen Mom”, a popular show on MTV; then I thought about how a Feminist Anthropologist would view teen pregnancy, but Mackenzie beat me to the chase as well. So now I will attempt to sound original and bring up further points; I think that there’s a heavy difference between love and pregnancy; unfortunately the two aspects tend to go hand-in-hand for many cultures. For a Feminist Anthropologist, I think that the only worrisome aspect of young love would be the line in which love and obsession become blurred for young people. Being in love for the first time at the vulnerable age of 16 is not only new, but terrifying. Unfortunately for many young people, especially girls, the feeling of love for another person can consume their mind; and the thought of losing this person once they have them can be even more consuming and terrifying. That’s why I, and assuming some Feminist Anthropologists, believe that shows like “Teen Mom” give false hope to these girls who would do anything, like for example conceive a child, to keep this person in their lives. That is a heavy component to why I believe parents feel hesitant to fully allow their child to give into a love that may not last.

  17. kellyloud says:

    I really like how you explained why exactly this is a new phenomenon, but I have to question the thought process. I don’t know if I’m right, but wasn’t it pretty frowned upon to have premarital sex much more than it is today? Like how we were talking about how so many women had to marry men that had raped them because they were now seen as being unworthy of marriage.

  18. Rebecca Powell says:

    Brenda, I think you bring up an interesting point about love and pregnancy needing to go hand-in-hand in many cultures. Love has not always been defined as it is today. This differs from culture to culture, but romantic love and the association of love with sex did not become widely recognized in English until around the 17th century. We think of love as something so commonplace that it always exists or has the potential to exist. It comes back to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: we know the word love so well that we never question its existence. Now, I’m not doubting the existence of love, but maybe our culture has become a little bit obsessed with the idea of love instead of the actual feeling. I think it could be argued that many young people today want so badly to feel the emotion of love that they often just need a man or woman to project this onto.

  19. Kaitlyn Clure says:

    Zoe Adelman-

    I agree with you about the comment that there are not shows with 30 year old women raising children alone, but I have seen this show on the Health channel with single women who are over 50 starting and raising a family by themselves. They say they have more time and more experience to deal with their children. Overall, I was confused of what to think. Is it worse to have a teen mom, or a 60 year old one?

  20. Brian Ruddle says:

    Alex, I notice how you state that “American parents tend to hope that their children become successful, happy adults and acknowledge that part of said happiness comes from finding true, deep, life-long love”. While I do agree that in general terms American parents want their children to be happy, there are a few segments of society that might disagree with your “style” of love as I assume that you are speaking of relationships between only two people. Some communities in the U.S have at sometime argued for practices of polygamy, or communal sex/relationships. I would like to know how you would define “true, deep, life-long” relationships in these cultures that make up the U.S. Overall great essay!

  21. Halle Bennett says:

    There are problems with the ideas of independence vs. family making in our society on both ends of the spectrum. For example, some people start making families at a very young age- like 16- and others wait until they are in their late 40’s, if they can, and even then it is often done through artificial insemination. I am curious as to what a psychological anthropologist would say as to how the culture creates the ideas in the women of which to value more- independence or family? It could also be due to the plasticity of our human nature, in the way that, as our culture changes and sex becomes a more prevalent part of our lives, our personalities change and we accept the idea that sex is good and; therefore, are more willing to have sex at a younger age.

  22. Anna Hermann says:

    As I read through more comments it became apparent there is another aspect to this debate. As long as we’re talking about youth and sex I think it is vital that we bring in sexual education. Teen pregnancy is becoming a central issue in US culture, and we have to look at how the trend of abstinence-only based sex ed, or at least minimal sex ed, is contributing to a younger generation’s idea that love and it’s connection to sex (as many comments have noted) equates to adulthood. Teens who want to prove their responsibility as an adult act as an adult in all regards, including in their expression of sexuality, and even want to marry or start a family at a young age. By making sex more and more off-limits we are to an extent making it more enticing, because we are sending the message that only adults have sex. Thus, if you have sex, you are an adult. We must focus more on ensuring teen pregnancy is preventing by open up our ideas of sexual education, providing youth with contraception and an attitude where sexuality of youth is not stigmatized. Only by facing our youth’s love life and sexuality, instead of stigmatizing it, can we expect to solve the problems that result from it.

  23. Katie Legge says:

    i think you used great example in your paper for both the boasian and functionalist approaches. however, i think your point about children growing up can be used for the boasian perspective as well. in the past, people did get married at much younder ages than what is being seen now. from my personal expereinces, my great grandmother was married with a child by 14 (pretty young, i know), and that was fairly normal for where she was and that part of history. i think parents hesitation about young love and their kids getting married could be rooted in the history of young marriages. it could be that parent just do not want their kids growing up to fast.

  24. Mark Lamberti says:

    I really enjoyed your functionalist approach to parents skepticism about teenagers being able to have truly meaningful relationships. I think something else that the functionalists might attribute this to is the institution of school. Parents worry about kids finding love and changing their life plans from a conventional education to being with someone and potentially having a family. Because our culture has naturalized the necessity of a college education these days any deviation from that would have a negative consequence. In a past years scenario when people were expected to marry around teenage years conventional education did not exist in a cultural institution but instead in life experience.

  25. Hayden Griggs says:

    I think its bizarre that love as a concept cannot be quantified. All cultures have some type of marital union and if people didn’t have sex then there wouldn’t BE people. So i guess in some regard, aspects of Love can be quantified, but Love itself remains relatively elusive in the scientific community. The idea of love is kind of like the idea of death; we acknowledge its existence, its presence, and it’s occurence, but we cannot define exactly what it is. Young love is especially interesting in our culture, one which promotes romantic love in every facet of popular culture media. As a matter of fact, it seems like most Americans perceptions of love evolve as a result of our exposure to film and television. The predominant ending to any romance in a film: Love, Marriage, and children. Thats how it’s SUPPOSED to happen in our culture. But my question still stands: How can we expect Love to precede marriage and children if we can’t even define what the heck it IS? And why is it that terms like Puppy Love exist? It seems like Love has been given a Hierarchy based on age; Little kids holding hands on the playground is CUTE, teenagers are stereotyped as overzealous in regards to love and are therefore regarded as NAIVE, young adult Love (College Level) is regarded as Highly SEXUAL and based primarily on sexual nature, and it isn’t until the Late 20’s to mid 30’s that love becomes regarded as ROMANTIC. to me, this seems similar to Cultural Evolutions tendency to rank. Maybe we as humans just have a natural desire to categorize our world.

  26. Lyndsi Wisdom says:

    This essay really strikes me because of my own relationship. I have been with my boyfriend for 3 years as of this November, and I strongly disagree with a lot of the stigmatization’s that we have regarding this thing we called love. You made an interesting point- they say how do we know we are in love, do we know what love is? You said that this should be true at any age. I think you are absolutely right. Love is something that is visceral. I don’t believe at all that its something we LEARN from media. Of course, love is influenced by the media. We get impressions on how we are supposed to experience and express our love but love has been around long before media. When you love someone you don’t have to have sex with them. Its a visceral response- when you see them you become happy, when you aren’t with them your blood pressure goes up. It is no different from a love you may have with your child. If they are out of sight, your heart starts racing, you get short of breath. Romantic love may not be this extreme but it still is the way of explaining it. “Young love” doesn’t mean anything. Many cultures marry their children off young-as kelsey stated above. Love is natural and it is something that needs to be experienced. I don’t think it matters whether you find that in your teen’s or in your 50’s. I know a couple of people that found their partner in their junior years of high school, and in actuality, they are MUCH more happier than many of the couples I know that found each other in their later years. Its not about knowing or not knowing what love is, its about learning what love is, and expressing it in a way that makes you and your significant other happy.

  27. Adam Sammakia says:

    I think many parents’ fears stem more from teenager’s tendencies to be short sighted and misguided by the intense emotions that come from being in love. As people grow older, they often find that their relationships they had no doubt would last forever, actually were built on superficial and random qualities. It takes some legitimate time under your belt to start to know what love really is and what qualities you really look for in a mate.

    Furthermore, I think the (relatively) newfound importance of education in this society is what is behind parents’ cautiousness surrounding young love. I think they fear that teenagers will sacrifice their education for relationships they might find falling apart when they get older and thus lose their opportunities at a prosperous life.

  28. Landon Shumaker says:

    Good essay overall, the main points were sort of long, and a conclusion would be nice to see you talk about your personal insight. The idea of teen love is sort of a joke to most people, because like you said in your functionalism paragraph, people see teens as not capable of having a meaningful relationship. I believe it should be looked at more through a Boasian mind. Our society is too stuck in the past, our social norms are still stuck in our parents/grandparents generation.

    • carsonhughes says:

      Landon, I believe that society is ever-changing, never stuck in the past. On this topic of love, historically, generations have continuously reinvented themselves. Our parents generation, the baby boomers who popularized the concept of free love, were very rebellious in their parents eyes. Now our parents seem stale, and stuck in time to us. I believe that the American concept of love is bound to undergo yet another transformation through our generation.

  29. Erica Edelberg says:

    I thought that was a great topic, and I feel that it would also be interesting to look at it from the perspective of a feminist anthropologist. In the past 50 or 60 years, there has been an enormous change in the lifestyles that women live. There are so many opportunities for females nowadays, and not only is the position of “housewife” no longer required, some people even look down upon it. In this sense, teenage pregnancy has a whole different set of meanings than it did in the past. When women were expected to stay at home and raise the children and tend to her husband, getting pregnant young was not an emergency; the girl was doing just what she was supposed to, just maybe a little earlier than expected. However, in contemporary society, getting pregnant at a young age is viewed as ruining the opportunities and the future of a girl. Once a woman has a child, she generally IS expected to be the primary caretaker, and she must therefore give up her bright future. Whether or not this idea is accurate, I think that many parents of teens see the issue this way and don’t want their children to “ruin” their young lives.

  30. Lucy Lundstrom says:

    I thought this essay was really interesting! I definitely agree with Erica Edelberg’s point that in the past couple of decades, women’s roles have really changed drastically. Now it seems like women are presented with the same opportunities and the same expectations as men to get an education and have a career. Parents might be worried that their child falling in love at an early age and potentially getting married or having children could nullify their ability to get a good education, have a career, or achieve other goals that women in the past might not have had the opportunity to do. Perhaps some parents, especially mothers, having experienced growing up in earlier generations in which women had fewer opportunities to branch out from motherhood or being a “housewife” if they so desired, fear their children will throw away the chance to do things with their lives that they never had the opportunity to do. Another aspect of this essay I found very interesting was the hollywood ideal of young love. While there are a ton of examples in Hollywood idealizing finding love at a young age, there are certainly movies and tv shows that seem to frown upon it(or at least the possible outcomes of having a relationship at a young age) as well, such as the MTV show Teen Mom, which depicts young teenage girls struggling to raise a child while still attending school, sometimes without a father figure in the picture.

  31. Molly Small says:

    Looking at this topic of marriage in minors makes me compare U.S. society to that of the Magar’s in Junigau. Laura Ahearn shows us all about the traditional marraige policies in Nepal and how marriage is not typically based around love. In the U.S. on the other hand, most marriages are essentailly based on love. I am not sure about the divorce policy in Nepal (or if there even is one) but I do know that divorce in the United States is near 50% currently. This statistic makes me agree with the law that you are not allowed to get married until the age of 18. I am not saying that with age we will be able to find more lasting love, rather, it makes me wonder if the idea of marriage based around love is realistic at all and especially at the age of 18. I knew people in high school who were not yet 18 and wanted to marry their significant other at the time. Now, none of those couples even speak to eachother. Essentially, I wonder how an arranged marriage would work out. Would the couple be more or less satisfied? does age really matter in marriage? does love really matter in marriage? What I am curious about is what are the expectations of a marriage? Because if it is just to love another, why do you need to rush to put the label on it before the age of 18?

  32. Jacki Altman says:

    I thought the topic of this essay was pertinent to our society today. In response to Erica E’s comment on the typical “role” of a mother in society, I would like to bring up the job of the father in this situation. In our changing society, more fathers are becoming stay-at-home dads and mothers are becoming the breadwinners. While in the 1990’s stay-at-home dads were viewed as social pariahs, I wonder how this situation would apply to teen couples and the roles that they wish to adopt in society. Typically, in divorce and in pregnancy cases, the mother has more legal say in the matter than the father. But these ideas of mothers staying home and raising children are changing, so much that more teen fathers may want to stay home with the child or have more of a say in the child’s life than the mother. Antoher perspective I thought could go along with this essay was the idea of differing ideas of love from parents. Do fathers view young love differently than mothers? I’m sure this would be a hot topic in gender and feminist anthropology.

  33. Kelsey Ross says:

    I do agree that research related to young relationships is focused more on the body instead of the mind. Whether the body is ready for love or hormones confirm love or not, young individuals think that they are in love. Déscartes would argue that since, “Je pense, donc je suis,” if these young individuals think they are in love, then they are in love. Thoughts can determine reality. When younger people think they are in love, they tend to act in love. Isn’t that what matters? I don’t think that the human capacity and need for true love has been forgotten, merely overlooked at times. Humans are social creatures that desire meaningful relationships.

    • alexandra garland says:

      I completely agree with your comment. You are absolutely correct when you say that love is focused more on the body then the heart and mind. I find it concerning that the values of love have taken this turn.
      I also agree that if young individuals say they are in love, then they are in love, and nothing should get in the way of that. ( as long as it is a healthy relationship)
      Good comment and thoughts Kelsey!

  34. Nick Brownson says:

    Very interesting essay, I like your take on the perspective a functionalist might take in this situation. I think there a probably quite a few paths a functionalist might take in analyzing the stigmatization of young love in America, but I think it might lean more to parents stigmatizing young love because of their own experiences as young adults. Looking back on their relationships now, they see that they weren’t actually in love, but just thought they were. Since American society values a parent’s input on their child’s life choices highly, and parents generally see their children’s relationships as little more than “puppy love”, so to speak, so young love is generally stigmatized and considered to be somewhat of a joke in America.

  35. Megan Long says:

    I really enjoyed your essay. One thing I think that may not have been completely correct is when you said that, “Teen relationships, love, and sex hadn’t been as big of a concern in America earlier in the twentieth century”. I agree that teen relationships were very important in the early twentieth century, but I do not think that parents at that time, and now, were not concerned about teen sex. If anything, they were more concerned about teen sex back then because when the young women and men were supposed to be acting “proper” it would look very bad if the young women became pregnant. The issue with teen sex is also a big deal today because it has increasingly been leading to pregnancy, even though there are many options available to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Anyways, this is just a tiny criticism. Other than that, I thought you did an excellent job and this was a very interesting topic to choose!

  36. Forrest Jensen says:

    Young love is a touchy subject because as it was mentioned in previous comments it is largely inexplicable and unquantifiable. I think its important to understand that love is understood diferently not only across cultures, but individual people aswell. Sometimes it takes 25 years of marriage before they find out that the “I love you”s they said to eachother all those years meant comletely different things. As detestable as the idea of parents inquiring into their childrens’ love affairs sounds i understand why they might. With divorce rates as high as 50% percent, and only a fraction of the remaining 50% actually satisfied with their marrige, i would say theres alot of miscommunication when it comes to love. I think the best thing to do is to respond to these parental challenges and social inquiries. As individuals we need to look for the answers to our questions about love before we make commitements and families based on it. With regards to the afforementioned “ologies”, i think that its important that we dont restrict love to the culturally romanticized ideal that it is all powerful and unquestionable. Science may have some answers for us, or at the very least become an important component of an individual’s definition of love. If the love you are talking about exists, it will never be forgotten no matter what we culturally subject it to.

  37. Nathan Scheidehelm says:

    I think a poststructuralist approach needs to be taken into consideration as to why teen parents make a big deal about young love. During childhood and adolescence, an individual’s parents are filled with power over that individual, usually setting rules such as curfews and daily chores that the child must abide by. This power relationship is sometimes straining on the young minds, which can cause resistance in many forms. Resistance, or an individual’s way of speaking back to power can be presented in many ways, and one big way is finding a relationship, which may not be approved by the parents of an adolescent teenager. Hearing that their child is in love cannot be an easy situation for a power-holder, or parent, to face, hence causing it to be a big deal.

  38. Zoe Anderson Edenfield says:

    I think that your paper was well thought out and constructed: I agree with you in that many parents probably fear a sexual aspect in their teen’s relationships; from a Boasian perspective it is true that in the past couples were married young and this was a good thing: parents wanted to see their children in a stable relationship and getting their lives started, perhaps because people died younger back then. But nowadays, parents want their children to wait; wait until they have already started their lives before starting a relationship. It is interesting to see this shift in what parents want for their children. It would also be interesting to address from a Feminist Anthropologists view on how parents tend to be more protective of their daughters when it comes to “love” than they are of their sons; is this because girls must deal with the consequences of physical love (such as pregnancy), or because girls are viewed as more innocent then boys at a teenage age? Perhaps for other reasons? I think these would all be really interesting questions to get into.

  39. Sarah Kell says:

    I really enjoyed reading this essay on love, and I thought you argued both the Boasian and Functionalist perspectives very well. When you brought up the issue of parents being afraid of teen pregnancy in your Boasian approach, it really got me thinking about the media. There are so numerous shows on television now about teen pregnancy, for example, Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant. While sex and pregnancy at such a young age is not widely accepted by everyone, there seems to be a growing fascination with the subject. As for the notion of getting married younger and having children in the earlier twentieth century, this idea seems to almost be more of a taboo. Parents fear for their children to make a “stupid” decision by getting married young, or getting pregnant too early. It seems that for some in this country (not for all, and certainly not for more religious or conservative groups) that there is a larger taboo on getting married while in college than having (safe) sex while in college. I thought your essay brought up some really great points and it really got me thinking about all the attitudes of love and sex and how they are evolving in such different ways over space and time.

  40. Kylee Smith says:

    It is important to note that it is not just our parents who judge our youthful romances, but our peers as well. While there may be a general generational gap regarding sexual taboos, there are still many youth in America who maintain conservative views on sex and sexuality. My interpretation of our society is that the older generations are not opposed to young romance, but are opposed to the sexual aspect of these relationships- which is not a new concept. The increase of sexual resources and education available is elevating teen sex to a more common topic.

  41. Joe Zimmermann says:

    What I liked most about your essay was the ability it had to connect to its audience. Many people reading this essay in our class can empathize with the content of this essay. I tend to agree with the second theory, because I can see how parents can feel the detachment present when kids begin to make their own lives. How is this theory found in America diffused through cultures? Possibly found in the diffusion of practices of love developing countries through media

  42. Lila Zwonitzer says:

    I think it’s interesting to look at the way young love is perceived over space and time. Where I grew up, 99.99% of students who graduate go on to college right away. Though there are a lot of “love” and sexual relationships occurring, they always fall second to the choices of a future education. In other parts of the country, it is not uncommon to marry right out of high school to start a family and a life together. And if we were to look at it over time, whirlwind romances were just as common, but there was less of a stigma attached. I think a lot of the issues people have with accepting young love now has to do with the wider range of information available on sex, and even shows like Teen Mom that show every single relationship failing. I think that might go to show that at a young age teens arent ready for that kind of responsibility. But, who is to say that they aren’t ready to make a commitment to grow and learn together if they are truly in love.

  43. Ruth Harrell says:

    I agree with Lila, that a lot of the issues and stigmas attached to sex are because of the access that young people have to sex. However I would argue that in today’s culture young people approach “love” in a very stand-offish way because of this. I know several kids from my home town that had this view of love. This mainly came from their parents and the world they had grown up in, where young people, if put in a situation of premarital pregnancy, got married. Today shows like Teen Mom demonstrate how easy and “glamourous” in a way it is to be pregnant before marriage. The creation of this perception leads to what Lila was talking about in that young people (around age 18) aren’t ready for the responsibility that comes from a “love” relationship.

  44. Rosa McAvoy says:

    While many things can be attributed to whether or not a young person can fall in love, i think the most important aspect and influence to keep in mind is religion. Religion plays a huge role in how love and the idea of sex to reproduce is seen on today’s youth. I believe so many people attempt to force their values on young adults that we forget that love can come in all different ways whether or not sex is involved. Age is just a number and as you get old it will show physically but mentally it can be argued that many people have childish personalities stuck in a grown up body. This can support that regardless of what age, I assume at least after one hits puberty and begins to feel the need for a significant other, you can find love. No one really has the authority to tell someone if they are or aren’t in love and what they do or don’t know about it. Everyone has a different experience with different people and may experience different ways love can positively or negatively effect one’s life. All in all age really shouldn’t matter if you can or cannot find a lover, and while some laws may keep apart certain age groups from being sexually active together, no one is to say where and when someone can find love.

  45. maximus1090 says:

    It seems to me that the notion of “young love” is entirely culture in and of itself. The meaning and implications of the word “young” and “love” are so widely diverse that one can’t help but call into question the validity of such rigid social institutions that are in place to restrict “old” love to that which is above the age of 18, or even that which is after an individual has finished a college education, or is at a similar age. More than anything, this issue confronts the idea that the human capacity to love develops as the individual develops biologically. Arguably this question opens up a huge debate on a person’s ability to ask introspective questions of himself, and as a result, gaining the ability to understand his desires, aspirations, emotions all the more “maturely.” I use this word hesitantly because all of these terms are so nebulous in their meaning, there is not much that can be effectively determined.

  46. Kelli Peterson says:

    RE: American Stigmatization of Young Love Past and Present
    I was struck by the opening portion of this piece. The author is presenting an argument that young love should not be judged or demeaned by societal norms, which should have no bearing on an individual’s experience of love. Yet, it is presented within the context that ALL AMERICAN parents want their children to find “true, deep, life-long love” that leads to spending “the rest of their lives” with one person.
    This, in itself, is a false idea perpetuated by the dominant voices of our culture. Looking at the piece with a post-structuralist lens, I have to ask “what hegemonic power has created the idea that love should be limited to one ‘true’ relationship in a lifetime? What is to be gained from controlling and constraining love?”
    As a parent, I truly DO hope my children carry with them a life-long, profound love – for themselves, their family, their friends and everyone who they have the opportunity to learn from and teach. But in no way do I hope that love is bounded by someone else’s ideas of the ‘correct’ way to love.
    Also, I am not sure that cynicism about young love has anything to do with pregnancy. I think it is related to fears of intergenerational relationships. If we, as a culture, admit that children feel, know, and understand love the same as adults, then it would be a slippery slope to ‘old sickos’ claiming to ‘be in love’ with teens.
    I agree with the overall sentiment of the paper, however. I have always found it an odd binary opposition that parents “love” their children and know the kids “love” them back, but yet say “you don’t know what love is.” Any parent who would say that to a child needs to ask themselves, “have I not shown this person love every day of his/her life? Of course, he/she knows what love is.”

  47. laine smith says:

    Love is a complicated emotion, and as described above, there are many different types of love. I think the reason young love is frowned upon is just because of the lack of experience. How do you differentiate between love for a friend and love for a lover? The two feelings are similar, but still distinct. To be so young, and not fully understand that, can cause complications in a relationship. Its scary for a parent to watch their child go through that, an emotional rollercoaster of learning what the world and people have to offer, and how to distinguish the emotions tied to them.

  48. Amanda Kim says:

    Love transcend throughout the years, in which it was once defined as a feeling of warmth in your chest back then but now it’s more about expressing love through sexual acts. I personally know a 5th grader who had sex with her 7th grade boyfriend and just hearing it makes me worry about the youth in this generation of America. I suppose love nowadays, or evolved into, is all about sex and flings. What ever happened to emotional love? I mean, there are those seeking emotional love of the young individuals but that’s extremely rare nowadays … probably a good thanks to media.

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