image of Love, actually
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Individuals create both personal and culturally shared meaning through narratives; however, sparse research has explored the specific ways in which individuals might use such cultural narratives in creating meaning from developmentally important experiences. In this study, we examine how emerging adults narrate positive romantic relationships, both because emerging adulthood is critical for the development of intimacy and because romantic relationship narratives are pervasive in cultural media. Thematic analysis of 31 narratives from mostly European-descent students attending a private liberal arts university in the Southeast US (mean age 19; 16 self-identified females) revealed three major narrative arcs, and , which varied in coherence, coda, and mutuality of the relationship, but did not differ by gender. Further examination and discussion of these narratives suggest how emerging adults are making sense of their first romantic relationships in ways that inform efforts to educate and intervene to promote healthy and positive relationships.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Abele, A. E., Cuddy, A. J. C., Judd, C. M., & Yzerbyt, V. Y.
    (2008) Fundamental dimensions of social judgment. European Journal of Social Psychology, (), –. 10.1002/ejsp.574
    https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.574 [Google Scholar]
  2. Abowitz, D. A., Knox, D., Zusman, M., & Mcneely, A.
    (2009) Beliefs about romantic relationships: Gender differences among undergraduates. College Student Journal, (), –.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Arnett, J. J.
    (2007) Emerging adulthood: What is it, and what is it good for?Child Development Perspectives, (), –. 10.1111/j.1750‑8606.2007.00016.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2007.00016.x [Google Scholar]
  4. Bakan, D.
    (1966) The duality of human existence: An essay on psychology and religion (p.). Rand Mcnally.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Bamberg, M.
    (2006) Stories: Big or small: Why do we care?Narrative Inquiry, (), –. 10.1075/ni.16.1.18bam
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ni.16.1.18bam [Google Scholar]
  6. Baxter, L. A.
    (1992) Root metaphors in accounts of developing romantic relationships. Journal of Personal and Social Relationships, (), –. 10.1177/0265407592092006
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407592092006 [Google Scholar]
  7. Berntsen, D., & Rubin, D. C.
    (2004) Cultural life scripts structure recall from autobiographical memory. Memory & Cognition, (), –. 10.3758/BF03195836
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03195836 [Google Scholar]
  8. Booker, J. A.
    (2004) The seven basic plots: Why we tell stories. A&C Black.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Boyd, B.
    (2018) The evolution of stories: From mimesis to language, from fact to fiction. WIREs Cognitive Science, (), e1444. 10.1002/wcs.1444
    https://doi.org/10.1002/wcs.1444 [Google Scholar]
  10. Braithwaite, D., Allen, J., & Moore, J.
    (2017) Data conferencing. 10.1002/9781118901731.iecrm0057
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118901731.iecrm0057 [Google Scholar]
  11. Breen, A. V., McLean, K. C., Cairney, K., & McAdams, D. P.
    (2017) Movies, books, and identity: Exploring the narrative ecology of the self. Qualitative Psychology, (), –. 10.1037/qup0000059
    https://doi.org/10.1037/qup0000059 [Google Scholar]
  12. Bruner, J.
    (1991) The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, , –. 10.1086/448619
    https://doi.org/10.1086/448619 [Google Scholar]
  13. Casad, B. J., Salazar, M. M., & Macina, V.
    (2015) The real versus the ideal: Predicting relationship satisfaction and well-being from endorsement of marriage myths and benevolent sexism. Psychology of Women Quarterly, (), –. 10.1177/0361684314528304
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684314528304 [Google Scholar]
  14. Chaney, C.
    (2010) “Like siamese twins”: Relationship meaning among married African- American couples. Marriage & Family Review, , –. 10.1080/01494929.2010.543037
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01494929.2010.543037 [Google Scholar]
  15. Donald, M.
    (2001) A mind so rare: The evolution of human consciousness. W. W. Norton & Company.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Dugger, J. M.
    (2014) “I’m a Feminist, but…” Popular romance in the women’s literature classroom. Journal of Popular Romance Studies. https://www.jprstudies.org/2014/10/im-a-feminist-but-popular-romance-in-the-womens-literature-classroomby-julie-m-dugger/
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Dunn, C. D.
    (2004) Cultural models and metaphors for marriage: An analysis of discourse at Japanese wedding receptions. Ethos, (), –. 10.1525/eth.2004.32.3.348
    https://doi.org/10.1525/eth.2004.32.3.348 [Google Scholar]
  18. Erikson, E. H.
    (1968) Identity: Youth and crisis. WW Norton & company.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Fincham, F. D., Stanley, S. M., & Rhoades, G. K.
    (2011) Relationship education in emerging adulthood: Problems and prospects. InF. D. Fincham & M. Cui (Eds.), Romantic relationships in emerging adulthood (pp.–). Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Fivush, R.
    (2019) “A life without stories is no life at all”: How stories create selves. Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture, (), –. 10.26613/esic.3.1.116
    https://doi.org/10.26613/esic.3.1.116 [Google Scholar]
  21. Furman, W., & Shaffer, L.
    (2003) The role of romantic relationships in adolescent development. Adolescent romantic relations and sexual behavior: Theory, research, and practical implications, (pp.–). Taylor & Francis.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Giordano, P. C., Longmore, M. A., & Manning, W. D.
    (2006) Gender and the meanings of adolescent romantic relationships: A focus on boys. American Sociological Review, (), –. 10.1177/000312240607100205
    https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240607100205 [Google Scholar]
  23. Golden, J. C., & Jacoby, J. W.
    (2018) Playing princess: Preschool girls’ interpretations of gender stereotypes in Disney princess media. Sex Roles, (), –. 10.1007/s11199‑017‑0773‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0773-8 [Google Scholar]
  24. Goodman, N.
    (1978) Ways of worldmaking. Hackett Pub. Co.. 10.5040/9781350928558
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350928558 [Google Scholar]
  25. Grysman, A., & Hudson, J. A.
    (2013) Gender differences in autobiographical memory: Developmental and methodological considerations. Developmental Review, (), –. 10.1016/j.dr.2013.07.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2013.07.004 [Google Scholar]
  26. Habermas, T., & Bluck, S.
    (2000) Getting a life: The emergence of the life story in adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, , –. 10.1037/0033‑2909.126.5.748
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.126.5.748 [Google Scholar]
  27. Haines, E. L., Deaux, K., & Lofaro, N.
    (2016) The times they are a-changing… or are they not? A comparison of gender stereotypes, 1983–2014. Psychology of Women Quarterly, (), –. 10.1177/0361684316634081
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684316634081 [Google Scholar]
  28. Hammack, P. L.
    (2008) Narrative and the cultural psychology of identity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, (), –. 10.1177/1088868308316892
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868308316892 [Google Scholar]
  29. Harbus, A.
    (2011) Exposure to life-writing as an impact on autobiographical memory. Memory Studies, (), –. 10.1177/1750698010389571
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1750698010389571 [Google Scholar]
  30. Hefner, V., Firchau, R. J., Norton, K., & Shevel, G.
    (2017) Happily ever after? A content analysis of romantic ideals in Disney princess films. Communication Studies, (), –. 10.1080/10510974.2017.1365092
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10510974.2017.1365092 [Google Scholar]
  31. Hefner, V., & Wilson, B. J.
    (2013) From love at first sight to soul mate: The influence of romantic ideals in popular films on young people’s beliefs about relationships. Communication Monographs, (), –. 10.1080/03637751.2013.776697
    https://doi.org/10.1080/03637751.2013.776697 [Google Scholar]
  32. Hellman, B.
    (2013) Fairy tales and true stories: The history of Russian literature for children and young people. Brill. 10.1163/9789004256385
    https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004256385 [Google Scholar]
  33. Hochman, Y., & Spector-Mersel, G.
    (2020) Three strategies for doing narrative resistance: Navigating between master narratives. British Journal of Social Psychology, (), –. 10.1111/bjso.12376
    https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12376 [Google Scholar]
  34. Holmes, B. M.
    (2007) In search of my “one and only”: Romance-oriented media and beliefs in romantic relationship destiny. Electronic Journal of Communication, (), –.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Horstman, H. K.
    (2013) “Love stories aren’t always like the movies”: The relational implications of inheriting parents’ courtship stories. Family storytelling (pp.–). Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Hudson, J. A., Gebelt, J., Haviland, J., & Bentivegna, C.
    (1992) Emotion and narrative structure in young children’s personal accounts. Journal of Narrative and Life History, (), –. 10.1075/jnlh.2.2.03emo
    https://doi.org/10.1075/jnlh.2.2.03emo [Google Scholar]
  37. Kövecses, Z.
    (1990) Metaphor and emotion: Language, culture, and body in human feeling. Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Kuzio, I.
    (2021) Women in love: Why women are expected to love first and the exploration of changing gender roles in heterosexual romantic relationships. Canadian Journal of Family and Youth / Le Journal Canadien de Famille et de La Jeunesse, (), Article 3. 10.29173/cjfy29619
    https://doi.org/10.29173/cjfy29619 [Google Scholar]
  39. Mar, R. A., & Oatley, K.
    (2008) The function of fiction is the abstraction and simulation of social experience. Perspectives on Psychological Science, (), –. 10.1111/j.1745‑6924.2008.00073.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00073.x [Google Scholar]
  40. McAdams, D. P.
    (2019) “First we invented stories, then they changed us”: The evolution of narrative identity. Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture, (), –. 10.26613/esic.3.1.110
    https://doi.org/10.26613/esic.3.1.110 [Google Scholar]
  41. McLean, K. C., Lilgendahl, J. P., Fordham, C., Alpert, E., Marsden, E., Szymanowski, K., & McAdams, D. P.
    (2018) Identity development in cultural context: The role of deviating from master narratives. Journal of Personality, (), –. 10.1111/jopy.12341
    https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12341 [Google Scholar]
  42. McLean, K. C., & Syed, M.
    (2015) Personal, master, and alternative narratives: An integrative framework for understanding identity development in context. Human Development, (), –. 10.1159/000445817
    https://doi.org/10.1159/000445817 [Google Scholar]
  43. Ottsen, C. L., & Berntsen, D.
    (2014) The cultural life script of Qatar and across cultures: Effects of gender and religion. Memory, (), –. 10.1080/09658211.2013.795598
    https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2013.795598 [Google Scholar]
  44. Panattoni, K. W., Nielsen, K., & Thomsen, D. K.
    (2021) Heart-followers, hero, maiden: Life story positioning within a romantic couple. Qualitative Psychology, (), –. 10.1037/qup0000147
    https://doi.org/10.1037/qup0000147 [Google Scholar]
  45. (2019) Heart-followers, hero, maiden: Life story positioning within a romantic couple. Qualitative Psychology(), –. 10.1037/qup0000147
    https://doi.org/10.1037/qup0000147 [Google Scholar]
  46. Payne, E., & Smith, M. J.
    (2016) Gender policing. Critical concepts in queer studies and education: An international guide for the twenty-first century, (pp.–). Palgrave Macmillan US. 10.1057/978‑1‑137‑55425‑3_14
    https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-55425-3_14 [Google Scholar]
  47. Ravert, R. D.
    (2009) “You’re only young once”: Things college students report doing now before it is too late. Journal of Adolescent Research, (), –. 10.1177/0743558409334254
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558409334254 [Google Scholar]
  48. Reagan, A. J., Mitchell, L., Kiley, D., Danforth, C. M., & Dodds, P. S.
    (2016) The emotional arcs of stories are dominated by six basic shapes. EPJ Data Science, (), . 10.1140/epjds/s13688‑016‑0093‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1140/epjds/s13688-016-0093-1 [Google Scholar]
  49. Rubin, D. C., & Berntsen, D.
    (2003) Life scripts help to maintain autobiographical memories of highly positive, but not highly negative, events. Memory & Cognition, (), –. 10.3758/BF03196077
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196077 [Google Scholar]
  50. Seal, D. W., & Ehrhardt, A. A.
    (2006) Masculinity and urban men: Perceived scripts for courtship, romantic, and sexual interactions with women. Culture, Society and Sexuality (1st ed.). Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Thorne, A., & McLean, K. C.
    (2003) Telling traumatic events in adolescence: A study of master narrative positioning. Connecting culture and memory: The development of an autobiographical self, (pp.–).
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Thorstad, R., Fivush, R., & Graci, M. E.
    (2019) Similarity of personal and cultural narratives.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Tracy, S. J.
    (2013) Data analysis basics: A pragmatic iterative approach. Qualitative research methods: Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact (pp.–).
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Twenge, J. M., Sherman, R. A., & Wells, B. E.
    (2016) Changes in American adults’ reported same-sex sexual experiences and attitudes, 1973–2014. Archives of Sexual Behavior, (), –. 10.1007/s10508‑016‑0769‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0769-4 [Google Scholar]
  55. Vannier, S. A., & O’Sullivan, L. F.
    (2017) Passion, connection, and destiny: How romantic expectations help predict satisfaction and commitment in young adults’ dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, (), –. 10.1177/0265407516631156
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407516631156 [Google Scholar]
  56. Vaterlaus, J. M., Tulane, S., Porter, B. D., & Beckert, T. E.
    (2018) The perceived influence of media and technology on adolescent romantic relationships. Journal of Adolescent Research, (), –. 10.1177/0743558417712611
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558417712611 [Google Scholar]
  57. Wängqvist, M., Carlsson, J., van der Lee, M., & Frisén, A.
    (2016) Identity development and romantic relationships in the late twenties. Identity, (), –. 10.1080/15283488.2015.1121819
    https://doi.org/10.1080/15283488.2015.1121819 [Google Scholar]
  58. Waters, T. E. A., Bohanek, J. G., Marin, K., & Fivush, R.
    (2013) Null’s the word: A comparison of memory quality for intensely negative and positive events. Memory, (), –. 10.1080/09658211.2012.745877
    https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2012.745877 [Google Scholar]
  59. Westman, A. S., Lynch, T. J., Lewandowski, L., & Hunt-Carter, E.
    (2003) Students’ use of mass media for ideas about romantic relationships was influenced by perceived realism of presentations and parental happiness. Psychological Reports, (), –. 10.2466/pr0.2003.92.3c.1116
    https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.2003.92.3c.1116 [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: narrative ; master narratives ; emerging adulthood ; romance
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error