In an article recently published in the journal Dr Human and social communication, researchers reviewed recent research trends and avenues for future studies on romantic love and relationships. Their findings have implications for policy making that can promote stronger family bonds and, thus, a more robust and resilient social fabric.
Revaluation: A decade of love: Mapping the landscape of romantic love research through bibliometric analysis. Image created with DALL·E 3
Romantic love is defined as an intense desire for union with another person. The presence of love leads to the transition from the initial stages of a relationship to the communication and satisfaction of a committed partnership.
Despite the power of love, however, romantic relationships are shorter than ever, and nearly half of first marriages now end in divorce in the United States. Commitment is no longer important in relationships, and expectations and experiences of love seem to be changing.
Love is a unique and mysterious phenomenon that has captivated not only great poets but also neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists and biologists. This has led to extensive scholarly work on the topic, covering numerous disciplinary areas and examining not only the positive emotions that love evokes but also the negative behaviors that it can engender.
Bibliometric analysis, which provides quantitative insights into scientific, technical, and academic work, provides a means of summarizing and synthesizing the depth and breadth of this vast literature.
About the study
The Web of Science database was used to identify relevant literature published between 2013 and 2022 using a keyword search. Included studies were written in English; Early access articles, conference proceedings, book chapters, retracted publications, and information papers were excluded.
Applying these criteria, 6858 papers were included in the analysis, which involved creating and interpreting informative and intuitive visual maps as well as evolutionary and co-occurrence analysis based on themes and trends identified from the literature.
Since 2013, annual publication and citation counts have shown an upward trend, increasing 90-fold by 2022. More researchers are focusing on this topic, suggesting that these numbers could grow even faster in the coming years More than 15,000 researchers from 104 countries have contributed to these papers.
Network analysis identified the most influential authors and collaborators in this group; The most productive author published 74 articles. The trend has shown a high level of collaboration between writers around the world. However, research prevalence was higher in high-income countries, which has implications for good health.
6,858 publications appeared in 1,251 journals, with the top 10 publications accounting for nearly one-quarter of all articles. US journals accounted for half of all publications, while the UK published 40%. China had the most among developing countries with 328 publications.
Although some papers were published in journals with an impact factor (IF) of around 8.5, there were indications that studies on romantic love may have difficulty being accepted into high-IF publications (the average IF was 4.070). Psychology journals account for 66% of publications, but other disciplines include psychiatry, sociology, women’s studies, and economics.
Keyword analysis suggests that between 2020 and 2022 the phrases ‘conflict resolution,’ ‘social relationships’ and ‘gay’ will peak in popularity. Non-heterosexual relationships have often been stigmatized, but emerging research shows how stigma can lead to less risky sexual behavior and higher emotional well-being.
Increasing focus on conflict resolution can promote healthy relationship outcomes; Computer-mediated conflict resolution has shown promise in this regard. Studies on social relationships have focused on race issues and brain scans to examine the neural basis of love. In recent years, studies have shown that peer bullying and dating violence are becoming more common among young adults, and that online dating can increase depression.
Over time, authors note a shift from an idealized view of love to a more realistic view. Open areas of inquiry include teen dating, intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, and attachment insecurity, with a focus on interconnected clusters of romantic relationships, gender, and attachment. For example, there were clear indicators that male adolescents were more likely to be perpetrators of dating or intimate partner violence.
The findings of this study encompass research trends, identify the historical trajectory that scholarship has taken, and assess fruitful avenues for future exploration. The findings are also relevant to identifying interventions – for example, targeting adolescents to reduce the incidence of dating violence. Future studies could extend this research question to databases beyond the Web of Science and include publications written in other languages as well as gray literature (conference papers, working papers, and other publications.
- A decade of love: Mapping the landscape of romantic love research through bibliometric analysis. Han, Y, Luo, Y, Chen, Z, Gao, N, Song, Y, Liu, S. Human and social communication (2024), DOI – 10.1057/s41599-024-02665-7, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-024-02665-7