Is Bad Stronger Than Good? Risks and Rewards of Adolescent Friendships and Romantic Relationships

« Return to Course Catalog

This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

Friendships and romantic relationships are central to adolescent development. But there's often a dark side to these relationships. Students in this course will learn the many ways that adolescents' behaviors and personalities are shaped by their relationships to peers and romantic partners. By learning about the risks and rewards of adolescent friendships and romantic relationships, students will assess the balance of bad and good of adolescent close relationships. Specific topics will include research on attachment, the origins of friendship and prosocial behavior, aggression and bullying, friendships and delinquency, how and when romantic relationships form, romantic compatibility, and dating violence. Course content will include lectures, scientific articles, historical perspectives, cross-cultural analysis, and the depiction of friendships and romantic relationships in popular media.

This course will offer students an examination of theory and research on adolescent friendships and romantic relationships. It will begin with an overview of adolescent development and the central role of friendships and romantic relationships as well as methods for studying these topics, (e.g., self-report, longitudinal designs, interviews, and observational studies). The course then focuses on specific topics highlighting the balance of risks and rewards these relationships offer. Topics will be attachment, including examples of what different attachment styles mean (e.g., “What does it mean to be avoidant in relationships?”); the origins of friendship and prosocial behavior, including what friendships in childhood predict about relationships in adolescence; aggression and bullying, highlighting what we know not just about the victims of bullying but about the bullies themselves; friendships and delinquency, including discussion of gangs and the role of peers in crime; how and when romantic relationships form, highlighting changes both within relationships and across development; romantic compatibility, including the scientific assessment of clichés like the “Romeo and Juliet effect,” or “Birds of a feather,” and finally dating violence, including new emerging trends such as cyber abuse.

Regarding material outside of class, students will be asked to complete a range of homework and assignments to assess their understanding of the course material. First, students will be asked to complete readings which will consist of seminal works on friendships and romantic relationships in psychology, including book chapters and short scientific articles. Second, students will write brief “thought papers” reacting to specific topics covered in class. Students choose the topics that interest them and write brief papers reflecting on their prior understanding of the topic and integrating information from the class lectures, discussions, and readings. Third, there will be a small group presentation where students will be given a list of additional topics and readings and will be asked to choose areas of interest to present on. The final assignment will consist of the class watching a popular media film together. They will then write an essay applying information from course readings, class discussion, etc. to their analysis of the influence of friendships and romantic relationships on the main character. In doing so, they will assess the “good and bad” sides of adolescent close relationships.

In sum, this course offers an opportunity for high school students to study a topic highly relevant to their own lives through the lens of psychological science.

1. Students will gain foundation knowledge relevant to clinical, developmental, and social psychology.
2. Students will gain experience with the scientific study of adolescent friendships and romantic relationships.
3. Students will gain practice with summarizing psychological research and developing scientific research questions.
4. Students will gain experience with critical thinking and writing designed to better prepare them as future college students.

Prerequisites: There are no course prerequisites. Students at all levels within high school should be able to successfully engage in the course, challenge themselves, and learn new content.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPY0960
  • Length: 1 week

Program Information

[email protected]

Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

Visit Program Page Information Sessions Learn How to Apply
Back to Top