Do children fall in love?


My Girl, Columbia Pictures, 1991

From The New York Times:

Do children really fall in love? Amanda Rose, a professor of psychology at the University of Missouri who focuses on friendships and peer relationships in childhood and adolescence, has researched romantic interests in children as young as third and fifth grade, half of whom report having a boyfriend or girlfriend — a percentage that goes down with age. The difference, she said, is that the younger children are less likely than adolescents to have reciprocal romances. An elementary school-age child might never be aware of being a classmate’s object of affection.

“What we’re capturing with those younger kids is probably crushes,” Dr. Rose said. And although there’s little research about crushes for children younger than third grade, many adults recall infatuations at those young ages — and we see them in our children.

Dr. Rose likens young kids’ crushes to other types of pretend play such as playing house or ambulance driver: It is a kind of practice.

“In research on children’s social and cognitive development, those activities are discussed as very important in terms of trying out, at a very rudimentary level, adult roles,” she said. “I could see crushes as very similar.”

Deborah Roffman, a human sexuality educator and author based at the Park School in Baltimore, said crushes are “a normal part of development, when kids start to see each other in ways that are a little bit different. I really do believe that they get a little zing in their heart.”

The Value of Childhood Crushes”, Bonnie J. Rough, The New York Times