Young Croatians Opt for Casual Relationships More and More, Study Shows

Katarina Anđelković

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As Index writes, the study “Modern forms of dating among young people aged 18 to 25”, conducted by Lucija Šutić from the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation, Margareta Jelić from the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Zagreb and Ana Krnić from the College of Algebra used the method of qualitative research characterised by a small but targeted sample and direct interviews with members of the focus group.

The scientists spoke to 28 people with an average age of 23, among whom there were 13 women and 15 men.

15 of them were students, six were employed, and seven were unemployed. Thirteen participants were single, and none of the unemployed participants were in a relationship. Two male participants described themselves as gay.

Invitation to sex and one-night stands

The traditional way of starting a romantic relationship between two young people began to change. They used to go on classic “dates”, through which they first developed emotional and then physical closeness.

Under the influence of various social changes, including the emergence of social networks, young people are opting for modern, casual forms of “dating” that include open relationships, friendships with benefits, no-strings-attached sex, and one-night stands.

Those who follow traditional patterns usually meet their partners in everyday situations or through a mutual friend and start going on casual dates. Another way is to develop a romantic relationship from a friendship.

Modern relationship partners usually meet in clubs, on social media, or on dating apps and immediately start chatting or hooking up.

This can lead to occasional romantic relationships, i.e. an open relationship of friendship with privileges, sex without obligations, invitations to sex and one-night stands, the authors point out in the article published in the new issue of the journal Revija za sociologiju.

The conclusions suggest that there may be no cultural differences between the dating scenarios of Croatian and American adults, although some research shows that Croatian society is still more collectivist, the authors say, adding that “millennials” probably grew up under the influence of individualistic values.

Another important finding of the study is that young people believe that long-term relationships lead to marriage and/or cohabitation, so if they want to finish their education and build a career, they will try to avoid long-term love relationships and postpone marriage.

Because they still have sexual needs or a need for intimacy, they try to develop casual relationships that will satisfy their specific needs, the authors say.

Fun and relaxation

Casual relationships with sexual relationships are characterised by moderate to high levels of passion, and low to moderate levels of intimacy and low levels of commitment.

The findings, as well as previous studies abroad, identify sexual pleasure as the main reason why young people engage in casual sex, and when this is the only motive for entering into a relationship, a person will settle for something more casual.

What’s more, these relationships can be fun and relaxing, as well as help partners practice their skills and learn what they want from their future long-term relationships, the article explains.

The authors note that modern relationships can be confusing because different people define them in different ways and accordingly have different expectations from their partners. When they do not follow a traditional dating scenario, respondents are not sure what the specific norms of behavior are.

A third of women who entered into a relationship experienced ambiguity regarding the status of their relationship, and two thirds of women experienced ambiguity regarding their friendship with the person with whom they “hooked up.” This ambiguity can result in anxiety, jealousy, frustration, anger, as well as the breakup of friendships.

Study contributions and limitations

The study was carried out using the method of qualitative research, which, unlike quantitative research, implies a sample with a smaller number of participants, with whom the researchers conduct direct interviews, so the authors also stated several limitations of this study.

The Croatian study included 28 people, while for comparison, a similar American study included 77 participants. The Croatian data are in line with the American research, but its results should be tested in a larger quantitative study, the authors point out.

The participants were included primarily through personal networks and were people living in a large urban area, so although some of them stated that they grew up in rural areas, the results might have been different if the sample had been more heterogeneous, they point out.

Nevertheless, the study expands the understanding of romantic relationships among young people, and as one of the first Croatian studies on this the topic, it is assessed, makes an important contribution in the field of partner relations research.

It can serve not only as a reference for future research, but also as a basis for the development of preventive programs that will strengthen romantic competences and develop communication skills in young people in the emerging adulthood period, they conclude.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.


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