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Demographic and Developmental Differences in the Content and Sequence of Adolescents’ Ideal Romantic Relationship Behaviors


Choukas-Bradley, Sophia; Goldberg, Shoshana K.; Widman, Laura M.; Reese, Bianka M.; & Halpern, Carolyn Tucker (2015). Demographic and Developmental Differences in the Content and Sequence of Adolescents' Ideal Romantic Relationship Behaviors. Journal of Adolescence, 45, 112-126. PMCID: PMC4674348


This study utilizes data from 18,392 respondents (aged 12-19) in Wave 1 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to provide a detailed descriptive analysis of U.S. adolescents' desired behaviors in their ideal romantic relationships. Age, gender, and ethnic group differences in the desire for-and preferred sequence of-a set of activities that could occur in a hypothetical romantic relationship were explored within subsets of heterosexual (n = 17,274) and sexual minority adolescents (n = 1118). Non-sexual behaviors were more commonly desired compared to sexual behaviors. The typical desired behavioral sequence was: holding hands, going out alone, telling others they were a couple, kissing, saying "I love you," sexual touching, and finally having sex. Overall, more similarities than differences emerged across groups, with some notable differences in the percentages who desired sexual behaviors. Results provide a nuanced picture of adolescent relationship scripts, with implications for education and prevention.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Adolescence


Choukas-Bradley, Sophia
Goldberg, Shoshana K.
Widman, Laura M.
Reese, Bianka M.
Halpern, Carolyn Tucker