Romeo and Juliet effect

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The Romeo and Juliet effect is when parental opposition to a relationship intensifies the romantic feelings of those in the relationship. The effect gets its name from the relationship between the protagonists in William Shakespeare's late 16th-century play, Romeo and Juliet, whose families were opposed to their union. The term was coined by Richard Driscoll who was the first author of a research paper which first suggested there was a real world basis for the effect.[1]


An early review[2] of romantic love in the Western world 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.[1] The study interviewed 140 couples, both married and unmarried, via questionnaires and surveys. The 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 six 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.[1]

Subsequent development[edit]

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[edit]

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 effects than 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[edit]

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 Shakespeare's telling of the Romeo and Juliet story -- where the parents never actually learn about the love between the two main characters -- the intense feelings last a mere five days, and would hardly seem to have been the basis for a long and happy union.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Driscoll, Richard; Davis, Keith E.; Lipetz, Milton E. (1972). "Parental interference and romantic love: The Romeo and Juliet effect". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 24 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1037/h0033373. ISSN 1939-1315. PMID 5079550.
  2. ^ Derougemont, D. Love in the Western world.(Trans, by M. Belgion) New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1940
  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[edit]

  • 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.