Capacity for Commitment May Start in Early
WEDNESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- The ability of men and
women to have staying power and a strong level of commitment in
their romantic relationships can be traced back to their early
childhood and adolescence, a new study finds.
Researchers asked 78 people aged 20 or 21 and their heterosexual
partners about their level of commitment to their relationship.
The researchers already had data on the participants from when
they were aged 2 and 16, including how loving and attentive their
mothers were when they were toddlers, and how they dealt with a
conflict with a friend as teens.
Researchers found that the toddlers who were treated well by
their mothers and who were better at resolving conflicts as
teenagers tended to be committed in their adult relationships.
People who stick it out, however, may not be successful in
single-handedly holding a relationship together, researchers
Those who had similar feelings about commitment -- whether those
feelings were strong or weak -- may be more likely to stay together
over the long haul than two people whose level of commitment didn't
The study is published in the June issue of
In the study, couples were asked to recount how they attempted
to resolve a major conflict in their relationship as well as what
they agreed on most. Researchers rated their levels of hostility
and feelings of hopelessness about the relationship, and how
couples tried to appease each other.
The study found that couples with differing levels of
commitments were the most antagonistic. When paired with a weak
link, a strong link will lose out and become the underdog with less
influence. On the flip side, two weak links in a relationship may
tolerate equally low expectations.
The researchers concluded the study's findings open a window
into human understanding of how people learn to love. "As children,
you are learning to manage your own needs and those of the people
you care about," said M. Minda Orina of St. Olaf College in a news
release from the Association for Psychological Science. "You learn:
Can I come forward with a problem? What can I expect of the other
person? And how can I do this in a way that everyone wins?"
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidance on
signs of an unhealthy relationship.
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