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Love’s Labour Lost: Dealing with Breakup during Adolescence

Submitted by on May 17, 2016 – 11:02 PM

breakupBroken heart and lost love are important parts of the teenage experience and its detrimental effects are best felt by those who experience it. Mostly, cases of relationship breakup remain unreported which in turn, increases the risk of  vulnerability to conditions like depression, suicide, social isolation, low self esteem etc. In my opinion, romantic relationships are a major developmental milestone of teenage.


Even if the relationship breaks, it would help teens to develop effective coping skills to overcome the aftermath of the breakup. According to journal of research on adolescence, “Romantic relationships, like friendships, are ongoing voluntary interactions that are mutually acknowledged rather than identified by only one member of a pair” (Collins & Andrew, 2002) and according to (Cannolly & Mclsaac, 2009) “Romantic relationships are mutually acknowledged close interactions between two people”.


In the view of developmental contextual theory, teens form their romantic relations considering their cultural beliefs, family and peer groups, while according  to the romantic attachment theory, relationship among parents plays an important role in the formation of a child’s romantic relationships . And according to ( Grover, Nangle & Zeff, 2001) “Being in a romantic relation is developmentally beneficial for teens.


These relations are associated with high self-esteem and self-confidence, social acceptance and feelings of competence in dealing with day to day interactions with friends and romantic partners.” According to ( M. Kerr, 2012) “love doesn’t always hurt, but it usually does when it ends”. And when love comes to end, it results in depression, suicide, aggression, irritability, social isolation, hopelessness and other problems.


And amongst these, depression is the deadliest aftermath of a breakup, especially when the relationship lasts for three months or more. According to (J.Connolly & Mclsaac, 2009) “approximately 4 out of every 100 teen get seriously depressed each year, that is 15% off teenagers suffer from depression and 400 kill themselves each year in USA due to a romantic relation breakup”.


According to (Cannolly et al., 2004), “ Asian youth are the least likely to report a recent break up”.  And the same goes for our country Pakistan where cases remain unreported. I have observed many teenagers and I always question myself as to why some teenagers grieve losses but  move on with a renewed hope of pursuing new relationships whereas some start  isolating themselves and go into depression? Why are some people so much dependent on one person?


What are the factors that compel teenagers to withdraw from social life and commit suicide  to get rid of the  depression? What could be done to solve the problems associated with breakup?  We can help our teens only if we know the causes of breakups and understand what they feel after breaking up from a relationship.


According to (Shulman & Scharf, 2010), “Adolescents reasoning about their breakups reveal important need deficits“. According to J.Connolly & Mclsaac (2009), factors contributing to break- up are divided into 3 categories. Firstly,  affiliation factors  that contribute to the break- up of a romantic relation are less time spent with each other and feelings of boredom in each other’s company.


Secondly, in category of intimacy dishonesty with the partner and absence of love for each other are some of the important causes. Lastly, in category of sexuality, when the romantic needs of girl or boy are not fulfilled, it results in sexual dissatisfaction and reduced physical attraction towards the  partner which leads to break up. So, according to (M. Kerr, 2012) “It’s not how a person ends a relationship that matters but, instead, how she remembers it that counts.


“In addition when individuals misinterpret relationship breakup it leads to emotional responses, for example, according to US Surgeon General “ A persons who has a strong belief that he will not find any one like him or her or his life is incomplete without that person, and thinks that this breakup has great impact on my life, will have a hard time coping. His rigid attitude about love and importance of that person and strong beliefs about that person will contribute towards depression.


Moreover, timing of being in a romantic relation matters a lot. According to ( Cannolly & Mclsaac, 2009) “Girls by the age of 12 are more prone to depressive symptoms because their mind is not fully developed. And depressive symptoms in both boys and girls appear more frequently if they are from a family with more conflicts and instability. So early engagement in a relationship is a leading cause of depressive symptoms. In addition, insecure relations are more problematic.


If they have experienced avoidant relationship among their parents, those teens become even more distressed because they are unable to fully trust their partner and view themselves as worthy of love. This kind of teen experiences rejection sensitively, they become fearful for being rejected by their partner and develop depressive symptoms due to maladjustment in the relationship.


And being in a relationship with negative interaction between partners with persistent criticism, disdain, disrespect and defensiveness are distressing enough. According to ( Galliner, Rostosky, Welsh, and Kawaguchi,. 1999) “Anxiety and depression are reported by teens experiencing breakup up due to fights, lack of mutual support and unequal decision-making power”.


So, teens with depressive symptoms end up with negative coping mechanisms like suicidal attempts or they become involve in substance abuse to get rid of depression. In addition, teens act in different ways to get rid of depression associated with the breakup. Like being irritated, aggressive or being violent to others. To help teens to overcome this distress and overcome the drastic situation, we should play our own role.


Parents should maintain healthy relationship among themselves so a child can learn healthy modes of maintaining relationships, listen empathetically and always be available to listen to the concerns of child. Talk therapy can help to overcome the depression associated with a break up, so parents should be mindful enough of their child’s feelings.


And if the depression gets worse, parents should take their child to a psychologist or a psychotherapist. In addition there is great role of peer group in getting out of the aftermath. Being isolated exacerbates depression so; friends can involve them in different activities. In conclusion, breakup during teenage is a very drastic condition.


It can affect teen’s psychology in a negative way like, feeling of hopelessness, being isolated from peer groups and social life, feeling of guilt and self-blaming for break up. Withdrawal from eating, and consistent weight loss. This directly leads to depression.


Similarly, depression has its own effects on a child’s mental health. Like he becomes irritable and aggressive on little issues and consistent mood swings isolate him from social life and he starts to prefer loneliness. So to save our teens from the negative outcomes of breakups and to cope with the aftermath, awareness sessions should be held for parents.


Firstly parents should maintain healthy relations among themselves so that child can learn to establish positive relations for himself. Parents should be encouraged to take their children to psychologist or psychotherapist if depressive symptoms appear, because if the depression becomes chronic it will be difficult for a teenager to lead a normal life.




SHULMAN, SHMUEL, and OFFER KIPNIS. ‘Adolescent Romantic Relationships: A Look From The
Future’. Journal of Adolescence 24.3 (2001): 337-351. Web.

Furman, Wyndol, and Lauren B. Shomaker. ‘Patterns of Interaction In Adolescent Romantic
Relationships: Distinct Features and Links to Other Close Relationships’. Adolescence 13.1 (2003): 1-24. Web.

Joyner, Kara, and J. Richard Udry. ‘You Don’t Bring Me Anything But Down: Adolescent Romance And Depression’. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 41.4 (2000): 369. Web

Zimmer-Gembeck, Melanie J. ‘The Development of Romantic Relationships and Adaptations In
The System of Peer Relationships’. Journal of Adolescent Health 31.6 (2002): 216-225. Web.

Underwood, Marion K, and Lisa H Rosen. Social Development. New York: Guilford Press, 2011.

Collins, W. Andrew. ‘More than Myth: The Developmental Significance Of Romantic

Relationships during Adolescence’. Journal of Research on And Adaptations In

The System of Peer Relationships’. Journal of Adolescent Health 31.6 (2002): 216-225.

Zimmer-Gembeck, Melanie J. ‘The Development Of Romantic Relationships Journal of Adolescence 31.6 (2008): 771-788. Web.

Fox, A. and Verdick, E. (2005). The teen survival guide to dating & relating. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Pub.
Picking up the pieces after a traumatic teenage breakup – The Boston Globe. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Neuroscience of Relationship Breakups | Psychology Today. (n.d.). Retrieved from


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