"Can adolescents truly be in love?"

Someone (I have no idea who) recently did a google search asking the question, “Can adolescents truly be in love?” This blog is the fifth search result out of 1,710,000 websites which may or may not provide something of an answer to that question. The searcher looked at my blog for less than 2 seconds. In addition to being an awkward, ineffective search question, this is a dehumanizing, insulting, and above all very ageist (as in sexist and racist) search question.

And in the event that that searcher returns to this blog, I want to be ready with an answer.

Teenagers often love more passionately, more deeply, and with more of their being than adults. Sometimes we can be scared by that. Teenagers can also release their loves with breath-taking speed, particularly if someone else has come along to take the original love’s place. Sometimes we dismiss their love because of that.

But that’s not fair. Love is love, and the ability to be in love is not diminished just because someone is under 20.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Ah, what is love??? If we answer this question, we can answer better whether people under 20 can truly be in love.

    Look to M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Travelled. He goes into good detail about how love is not a feeling, love is action. Love is time and attention. Love is keeping the other person’s best interests always first in mind.

    And this is why I can understand someone truly questioning whether an adolescent can truly be in love. I don’t see it as an insulting question at all.

    Karen, I think you are talking about the depth of the feeling that adolescents experience, rather than what I would consider true love. Karen, I suggest you re-consider the intensity of your response.

    Since our human development doesn’t really mature until our mid-20s, I think someone can make a true case that adolescents cannot truly know if they are in love. When you say that teenagers can release their loves with breath-taking speed, I think that indicates the speed with which they no longer consider that person’s best interests over their own.

    So, are you talking only about romantic love here, the way our culture perceives it? Or do you have a higher opinion of love, one that goes beyond the usual infantile, infatuation-driven fantasy that far too many people think really is love?

  2. This is a great point, Ruth. Here is what I think. I think that teenagers who are in love can and do devote lots of time and attention to the one they love. They can and do consider the other person’s best interests over their own. And I do think that one can love, truly love, and that does not have to be a long-term proposition. Why must a short-term love be demeaned by calling it infatuation?

    Yes, many teenage relationships are not love in these terms. But many adult relationships are not love in these terms either.

    And here’s a question for you: What could possibly be gained by believing or saying that a teenager who says he is in love is not really in love?

  3. Nothing can ever be gained by telling someone who is in love, that you don’t think they are *really* in love; this goes for teens and adults.

    What one believes is another issue, and I think you can stay in a loving relationship with someone who believes they are and/or is in love, even while you don’t believe it is “true love,” and you never have to mention it, and your actions never have to betray it. You can simply observe, and love, and that is what most of us should do most of the time, instead of being so quick to spout our opinions.

    Really, my point here is that I think it is a legitimate point of inquiry, and you seemed angry at the Google query, as if the question itself implied that the asker was emotionally backward.

    Love your blog.

  4. Well, I was angry. I think we discriminate against teenagers, and it’s this perspective of thinking they can’t love, thinking they can’t be as fully and deeply human as adults, that perpetuates that belief.

    Thank you for your support, Ruth!

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