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Volume 29, Number 2
March/April 2013

Learning About Love

How schools can better prepare students for romantic relationships


Freud argued that two things mattered most in a life: work and love. This country devotes staggering amounts of attention to education and other forms of career preparation. But what do we do to prepare young people for love?

Widespread failure in romantic love—divorce (which ends nearly half of all first marriages), constant marital conflict, and quieter marital misery or the inability to even form a relationship—has clear, high human costs. The consequences of troubled relationships, including alcoholism, workaholism, and domestic abuse, as well as the legions of therapies, mediation, and legal settlements designed to handle relationship failures, take an exorbitant financial and emotional toll.

Conversely, successful romantic relationships—supportive, securely attached partnerships that promote stability and trust—are correlated with higher wages, fewer health problems, and gratification in many domains of life. Yet public and private schools in this country, including higher education, do frighteningly little to provide young people the most rudimentary forms of guidance on how to develop healthy, mature romantic relationships. As a high school student told New York Times reporter Laurie Abraham, “As a society, we always tell kids, ‘Work hard, just focus on school, don’t think about girls or guys—you can worry about that stuff later, that stuff will work itself out,’ but the thing is, it doesn’t.”

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


Also by this Author

    For Further Information

    For Further Information

    L. Abraham. “Teaching Good Sex.” New York Times Magazine, Nov. 16, 2011.

    N. McLaren. “Teach Loving Relationships Through Literature.” Education Digest 63 (1997): 66–68.

    “Sex and Relationships Education in Other Countries.” International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks Archive, December 2009.

    L. Sharon. “Toward a Sexual Ethics Curriculum: Bringing Philosophy and Society to Bear on Individual Development.” Harvard Educational Review 80, no. 1 (2010): 81–106.