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.