Why Are Teen Couples Constantly Breaking Up?

Teen romance is like a minefield — few make it through completely unscathed and the path is strewn with the smoldering remains of countless broken courtships. According to common wisdom, this is because teenagers are volatile creatures who lack the maturity to resolve relationship issues. However, a new study has discovered that level-headed teens who handle disagreements well are just as likely to break up.

Teen Breakup picture from Shutterstock

Researchers at the Behavioural Science Institute of Radboud University in the Netherlands studied 80 heterosexual teenage couples aged between 14 and 16 years. All couples were in the process of dealing with relationship conflicts ranging from parental rules about dating to cheating and jealousy issues.

The study found that the likelihood of a couple breaking up was entirely independent of how well or poorly they handled or resolved these disagreements, and teens that were capable of better resolution were not more likely to stay together over time.

The results from this prospective study of adolescent couples suggest that conflict resolution and conflict recovery are not related to adolescents’ romantic relationship breakups. Adolescents who were capable of either resolving or recovering from conflict were not more likely to stay together over time. These results sharply contrast the outcomes of many previous findings among late adolescents, young adults, and married couples, which provided strong evidence for the importance of resolution and recovery for relationship longevity.

So if immaturity isn't the culprit, why do teens so frequently break up? According to the authors, this may be because teen couples tend to focus more on shared recreational activities and peer approval than on long-term commitment, with physical attraction providing the main motivation for sticking together.

The report concludes that over time, as relationship goals change to support long-term commitments, conflict resolution and recovery become more significant in defining relationship satisfaction. (Either that, or you realise you're getting a bit haggard and reluctantly settle for whoever you're with.)

Do Conflict Resolution and Recovery Predict the Survival of Adolescents’ Romantic Relationships? [PLOS ONE]

Did anyone manage to stay with their teen sweetheart through to adulthood? Share your secret in the comments section below.


    Out of the group I went to school with, most break ups were out of a desire for broader experience, to see if someone better suited might be out there or to learn what things are like with someone other than that 'first love'. As we get older, I think that experience means we're better able to identify which traits work and which ones don't in a potential partner, so we choose partners that are more compatible and more likely to last longer. As teenagers we never had that experience base to draw on.

    You don't know what you want when you're a teen, even if you're 'levelheaded' for your age.

    But it's really no surprise if you've ever been accidentally tortured by the idle vapid conversation from teens of today on public transport, it's not hard to realize that they are severely unequipped for life, moreso than any generation beforehand.

    We should be calling them Generation Disabled

      I'm going to do everything in my power to popularise this phrase.

      Also this is right during their formative years, when they're discovering who they are and what they want in life, especially now with the internet. As people grow, people change and as they grow apart, they go in different directions.

        Also quitting is acceptable in today's society, unlike previous generations who saw it as the easy way out, a weakness. Whenever things get too tough now, if you're not totally happy, quitting or breaking up is OK

        It might be just a minor reflection of society's changing views toward responsibility and commitments in general, because divorces are also going up, and even work relationships are mostly temporary, nobody goes and works for a shoe factory their entire life like before. Commitment is difficult when there is so much change and instability.

        Guess it's just a different world now, for better or worse.

          I think it's overly simplistic to just say that quitting/breaking up is OK now, so that's why it's more common. I think modern societies acceptance of the non-permanence of relationships is a considerably more enlightened approach. Rather than arbitrarily deciding that pairings should be forever (or resitricted only to a specific combination of genders), instead we hold up the mirror to ourselves and see that the reality of these ideas are the exception rather than the norm

    Either that, or you realise you’re getting a bit haggard and reluctantly settle for whoever you’re with.

    I think that quip is more relevant personally. The number of adult relationships that form on the basis that the arrangement is "good enough" or not as bad as the alternatives.

      The number of adult relationships that form on the basis that the arrangement is "good enough"
      I'm not in a relationship, and I'm far from an expert, but I always imagined the cause of that result to be over expectation from relationships in general more so than settling because it hasn't worked out for them.
      Are the right relationships really like Disney movies or are we all expecting too much, wishing we were as lucky as a certain percentage of the population who are in fact living said Disney movies?

      Last edited 18/04/13 3:09 pm

        Chasing illusions, just like how feminism hasn't made women happier :P

        Now it is time for me to hide!

    Why? because ......who actually gives a shit why? really.

      Teens? Parents? Teachers? Sociologists? Sugar daddies waiting to pick up the pieces?

      Ignored problems only grow bigger

    95% of teen relations will break up because there are too many fish in the sea.

    The Social media today has made it worst, in the 1950' and 60's teen relationships were short but today it is much worst.

    Porn, Music videos, texting, sexting, twitter, facebook..etc all fight to influence adults and teens.

    Social media has expanded the "choices" of who to dump and who to meet.

    Teens relatonships were hard to maintain in the past but today it is close to impossible to last it.because social media has expanded the choices to steroid like levels. One bad relationship fight and your friends on Facebook introduce you to 100 new hot people.

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