Attitudes about love

A survey on attitudes about love was given to a convenience sample of 25 college students. Some of the results are presented here.

The sample consisted of 16 females and 9 males.

During the introduction some of the terminology was explained to the students. For the students, English is an L2 language introduced in the third grade. L1 for 22 students is Pohnpeian, there are also three students of Yap state heritage in the class.

The survey included sixteen questions. The sixteen questions on the survey were developed by Byer, Shainberg, and Galliano (1999) and reported on in Dimensions of Human Sexuality 5th edition.

1 I don't believe that research should be done on love, love should remain mysterious.
2 Love is the most important thing in my life.
3 My life is very unhappy when I am not in love.
4 I am able to function very well without someone to love.
5 love is a fantasy that is popular with 13-year-old girls.
6 Each of us has our "one and only" somewhere out there, if only we can find that person.
7 Once you find your "one and only," you will never feel attracted to anyone else.
8 If you love too much, you will only get hurt.
9 I am able to function very well without someone loving me.
10 The smartest people don't get hung up on someone.
11 You can tell when you first see someone if you are going to love that person.
12 The best relationships have some basis more important than love.
13 If you love someone enough, any kind of problem in the relationship can be overcome.
14 If I had to choose between living in poverty or living without love, I would choose to love in poverty.
15 As soon as someone thinks you love them, that person will start to take advantage of you.
16 You're a sucker if you fall in love with someone who has no money.

The answers and scores were strongly agree (3 points), somewhat agree (2 points) and disagree (1 point). The students tallied their scores to determine how romantic they are against a rubric.

Attitudes about love
40 to 48 points: You have very romantic ideas about love. You might put too much emphasis on love as a basis for a partnership, while ignoring other important considerations.
24 to 39 points: You have more realistic ideas about love. love is important to you, but you also are aware of the many other bases of a smoothly functioning partnership.
16 to 23 points: You appear to be pretty cynical about love. Maybe you previously have been hurt or come from a family where romance was not emphasized. Your attitudes might insulate you from getting hurt again but could also be preventing you from enjoying the benefits of a loving relationship.

The distribution of the students against the rubric:

Sums Female Freq Male Freq
23 0 0
39 10 6
48 6 3
16 9

The students range from realistic about love to romantic. None rate as being cynical. The students are romantics at heart, and the distribution on many of the survey questions supports this conclusion.

Female Male
n 3 2 1 Avg 3 2 1 Avg Diff
1 10 4 1 2.60 7 2 0 2.78 −0.18
2 10 5 1 2.56 6 3 0 2.67 −0.10
3 6 4 6 2.00 3 5 1 2.22 −0.22
4 9 7 0 2.56 3 4 1 2.25 0.31
5 5 6 4 2.07 4 3 2 2.22 −0.16
6 14 2 0 2.88 8 1 0 2.89 −0.01
7 7 4 5 2.12 6 2 1 2.56 −0.43
8 13 2 1 2.75 5 4 0 2.56 0.19
9 8 7 1 2.44 2 4 3 1.89 0.55
10 8 3 5 2.19 1 7 1 2.00 0.19
11 8 5 3 2.31 4 3 2 2.22 0.09
12 5 6 5 2.00 3 5 1 2.22 −0.22
13 10 5 0 2.67 8 0 1 2.78 −0.11
14 11 3 2 2.56 7 0 2 2.56 0.01
15 7 5 4 2.19 4 4 0 2.50 −0.31
16 4 3 9 1.69 0 1 8 1.11 0.58
Avg: 2.35 Avg: 2.34 0.01


SA is strongly agree
A is somewhat agree
D is disagree

The students, both women and men, feel that research should not be done on love, love is mysterious. Love is very important to the students, with a majority feeling unhappy when they are not in love. This suggests that relationships will trump education on the list of priorities for the students. This might in part help explain the high rates of pregnancy among the women, and the willingness, even eagerness, to marry prior to graduation.

The students can, however, function without love. They prefer, however, to be in love.

Whether love is a fantasy for 13 year old girls is interpreted in the sense the author's intended it to be interpreted is questionable. The minimum age for marriage under the national law is 13, and state law on Pohnpei is 15. Anecdotes suggest first sexual contact may occur as young as eleven or twelve in some instances, and the pregnancy rates in the high school give indication of a sexually active mid-teenage population. Love and marriage at 13, while unusual, are not out of the question here. Thus the questions would not be interpreted in the same way the authors meant.

Both the women and men believe that there is a special someone, a one and only true love for each person. There is no disagreement with this statement among the 25 students. Conversations with students over the past two decades confirm that this is a widespread belief here.

As to whether once one finds their "one and only," they will never feel attracted to anyone else, there is less than full agreement. Among the men, eight of nine believe this to be true. Among the women, however, five disagree. The men maybe the starrier eyed romantics who believe that their one true love will completely command their heart. The women are apparently more realistic and realize that even if they find their one true love, they may feel an attraction for others. There are two potential future disconnects here. One is a potential willingness of a committed woman to accept and possibly act on feelings of attraction outside of their regular partner. The second and larger disconnect will be the attraction the man feels for others after having found and married his "one and only." That attraction will make him doubt that he has found his "one and only", instead of understanding that attraction is a biologically built-in function that does not turn off simply because one is married.

The students also strongly agree that if you love too much, you will get hurt.

A differential in the averages suggests that the women are more able to function well if someone does not love them than the men. Where question four focused on having someone to love, nine focuses on being loved rather than loving. If the difference is real, then the men have a greater need to feel the love of a partner than the women.

The men and the women generally agree that the smartest people don't get hung up on someone, that you can tell when you first see someone if you are going to love that person, and the best relationships have some basis more important than love. The women and men also find common agreement that if you love someone enough, any kind of problem in the relationship can be overcome, that if they had to choose between living in poverty or living without love, they would choose to love in poverty, and that as soon as someone thinks you love them, that person will start to take advantage of you. That latter most question may be culturally loaded. Once a relationship is publicly established, then there are obligations between the families. If one family has more resources than the other, then the flow of goods and assistance may be one-sided.

The last question does not fit with the rest of the set as the cynic would agree with the statement. The question was not rewritten but probably should be.

The students are romantics at heart and love is very important to many of the students. Love probably comes before learning for a significant number of students. This may be a side-effect of a culture and society where family really is first - before school and career. Where family is the core of one's self-definition, then there would be nothing more important than continuing the family by finding a partner with whom to build that family. This would relegate educational goals to second position - at best - and might help explain in part the retention and graduation rate issues.


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