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Romeo and Juliet effect

The Romeo and Juliet effect is a result of parental opposition to a relationship, characterised by an intensificaton of the romantic feelings of those in the relationship. The effect gets its name from the unwavering love of the protagonists in the Shakespeare play of the same name. The effect involves an increased commitment to persevere in the midst of parental opposition and interference. Richard Driscoll was the first author on the Boulder research team which suggested a real world basis for the literary masterpiece of undying passion.


An early review (1940) of romantic love in the Western world[1]emphasized the persistent association of obstacles or grave difficulties with the intensity of love, as in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In 1972, Richard Driscoll; along with Keith Davis and Milton Lipetz, published results from a longitudinal study on relationships, suggesting an underlying truth to the popular impressions. The research suggests that parental interference in a love relationship can intensify the feelings of romantic love between members of the couple, at least for a brief span of time.[2] The study interviewed 140 couples, both married and unmarried, via questionnaires and surveys. Couples joined the study to gain more knowledge about the state of their romantic affiliation. The researchers measured feelings about the spouse, about their perceived love, spousal trustworthiness, neediness, and parental interference. The couples completed these procedures at a first session, and then around 6 months to a year later, completed identical surveying sessions to see how their relationships have endured the past months. About 80% of the original participants completed the second session. Only a small portion of the original sample had ended their relationships or gotten divorced. In the results of the overall study, there was found to be an increase in love ratings for one's partner and parental interference. Interference did seem to have other frustrating effects, as it also was associated with decreased trust, increased criticalness, and increased frequency of negative, bothersome behaviors.[2]

Subsequent development

Since the original findings of Driscoll's "the Romeo & Juliet Effect," studies have attempted to find support of the original research. Although no exact replication has been done of the primary study, many researchers have kept on topic regarding relationship interference and relationship stability.

In 1983, Malcolm Parks conducted a study to determine influences of peers and families on relationship involvement, which showed little to no support of Driscoll's previous research. Opposition from the partner's family was not associated with greater emotional attachment.[3] These findings set the path for many other studies on romantic involvement and support systems involvement and approval.

Contemporary research

In recent years, much focus has been placed around the topic of a "Romeo and Juliet Effect." In 2001, Diane Felmlee found similar findings to Malcolm Park's study. For instance, perceptions of approval from an individual's friends and approval from a partner's family members reduce the possibility that a relationship will end.[4]

Susan Sprecher's study further delved into the subject of the influence of social networks on relationships. It found that individuals from a social network believed that their personal opinions, whether of support or opposition, affected the romantic relationships they had earlier acknowledged as being in their social networks.[citation needed]

H. Colleen Sinclair found that friends' approval or disapproval had a great effect on the participants' perception of a potential dating partner. Similarly to the previously discussed studies, Sinclair and colleagues found no significant support for the "Romeo and Juliet Effect."[citation needed]


The Romeo and Juliet effect, though found to be supported through early research, in recent years has garnered very little support. Social network, not just parental opinions, do have an effect on a relationship, but different from what Shakespeare and Driscoll claimed. Parental and social network approval greatly increases relationship stability and duration, but disapproval can greatly affect the longevity or outcome of a romantic dating relationship.

A window of impact

Why the failures to replicate? The original research indicates that the intensification of romantic love seems to occur within a narrow window, between the time that parents first object and the youngsters unite and stand together, and somewhat later when the youngsters are worn out by the continuing turmoil. The effect may last several weeks or even several months, but it does not continue over longer spans of time and it is not a promising basis for a sound marriage. In the original Romeo and Juliet play, the intense feelings lasted a mere five days, and would hardly seem to have been the basis for a happy ever after continuation.

See also


  1. ^ Derougemont, D. Love in the Western world.(Trans, by M. Belgion) New York: Harcourt,Brace, 1940
  2. ^ a b Driscoll, R., Davis, K.E., & Lipetz, M.E. (1972). "Parental interference and romantic love: The Romeo & Juliet effect." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 1-10.
  3. ^ Parks, M.R., Stan, C.M., & Eggert, L.L. (1983). "Romantic involvement and social network involvement." Social Psychology Quarterly, 46(2), 116-131.
  4. ^ Felmlee, D. (2001). "No couple is an island: A social stability network perspective on dyadic stability." Social Forces, 79, 1259-1287.

Further reading

  • Brehm, J. W. (1999). The intensity of emotion. Personality And Social Psychology Review, 3(1), 2-22. doi:10.1207/s15327957pspr0301_1
  • Parks, M. R., Stan, C. M., & Eggert, L. L. (1983). Romantic involvement and social network involvement. Social Psychology Quarterly, 46(2), 116-131. doi:10.2307/3033848
  • Wright, B. L., & Sinclair, H.C. (2012a). Pulling the strings: Effects of friend and parent opinions on dating choices. Personal Relationships. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6811.2011.01390.x.