What is the Romeo and Juliet Effect? Meaning, definition, explanation

The „Romeo and Juliet effect“ describes a psychological phenomenon that takes place between two lovers. If obstacles are placed in the way of lovers, their feelings of love intensify and they want each other all the more. The effect refers to Shakespeare’s play „Romeo and Juliet,“ arguably the most famous pair of lovers in the history of literature.

Reactant behavior: What is reactance?

The behavior that lovers exhibit as a result of the negative reactions of their environment is called reactant behavior or reactance. It expresses itself similarly to childish defiant behavior, but it is not childish; it is virtually an unavoidable consequence of oppressive behavior by authority figures. Especially in the case of events that people cannot control (for example, when they are confronted with severe restrictions), adolescents in particular show a „now-first-right“ reaction. In defiance of all warnings, they now associate especially strongly. Their behavior is an attempt to regain lost autonomy.

The „Romeo and Juliet effect“ already existed in antiquity

Unusual love relationships between two people can provoke reactive behavior (the „Romeo and Juliet effect“ described above). The lovers in Shakespeare’s tragedy do exactly the opposite of what society or their parents expect of them. Through threats and sanctions, the hoped-for effect does not occur; instead, the lovers stick together even to the point of death.

The „Romeo and Juliet effect“ can also be observed when there is a large and age difference between two partners (especially when the woman is older than the man). Such relationships are not very accepted by many societies and are often sanctioned. Both the closer and the wider family environment, but also colleagues and circles of friends put obstacles in the way of these relationships, manipulate the parties involved and try to sabotage the connection.

Forbidden love relationships did not first appear in Shakespeare; they were already an important theme in Greek mythology. Throughout all epochs of human history, love relationships that are suppressed by external influences have been popularly and succinctly thematized. Examples of this are Homer’s Odyssey and numerous fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.

The Roman poet Ovid wrote as early as one or two AD of Pyramus and Thisbe – a pair of lovers whose story resembles that of Romeo and Juliet. Whether it’s the movie melodrama „Lovestory“ or the 1950s musical „West Side Story“ – the interest in stories about forbidden or tragic love relationships has not waned to this day, so that they are often the core theme of movies, musicals, books et cetera. Are. The tragedy they contain exerts a magical attraction on readers and viewers and is a guarantee for full box offices.

Psychology behind reactance

When lovers are constrained by outside oppression, it often leads to reactance. Both feel even more closely connected, as fighters against the rest of the world, so to speak. Children enter their defiance phase around the age of three. The „Romeo and Juliet effect“ may seem like the defiant behavior of young children, but it is not the same thing. There is more to it than that. In the case of Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s drama, it is also the parents who provide the disruptive fire. This causes the love of the two for each other to grow stronger and stronger. If other peers had spoken out on the subject matter, it would have been seen as inappropriate. Such comments would have influenced the reactions of the lovers in a completely different direction.

„Romeo and Juliet effect“ is scientifically proven

Studies exist with consistent results about how adolescents react when parents forbid contact with certain people. They confirm the Shakespearean play. The love of both increases when parents speak out against the partners‘ relationship in a very specific, authoritarian way. At the same time as affection grows, more critical voices towards the partner emerge. On the surface, this seems paradoxical, but it can also be justified: Thinking is critical; when it comes to feeling, the situation is just the opposite.

The „Romeo and Juliet effect“ does not happen on a cognitive level, but on an emotional level. The effect is multirational, there is a motive behind it. The love increases because the people concerned want to regain the freedom that is restricted by the authority of the parents. The influence of the parents works only when the adolescents think about what was said to them, that is, in reflection. To maintain their influence with their adolescent children, parents should keep their parenting as consistent as possible and follow a clear line. Fickleness reinforces the „Romeo and Juliet effect“.What is the Romeo and Juliet effect?

Autor: Pierre von BedeutungOnline

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