Adolescent Romance Novels: Changes Over Time

Master of Arts
University of Alberta
Publication year

From the abstract:

The year 1980 brought the introduction of a new, and initially very successful, popular cultural form to the adolescent market - the adolescent series romance novel. By the end of that same decade, the genre had a much declined presence in the marketplace. The research reported here involves the content analyses of (a) adolescent series romance novels, both those out of print and still in print, (b) adult series romance novels, and (c) adolescent soap opera series romance novels. When the content analyses were compared to each other in relation to changing social conditions in the adolescent culture of the 1980s, one central issue was found to be salient - sexuality. The central hypothesis of this research is that the sexual content of teen series romance novels can explain the genre's decline. North American society became more sexualized during the 1980s, and adolescent series romance novels failed to accommodate this change; adolescent soap opera series romance novels did accommodate this change. In addition, the greater experience of parental divorce by these girls likely created concerns about the meaning of sexuality and the future of heterosexual relations. Once again, adolescent series romances failed to accommodate these concerns; adult series romances did accommodate these concerns. It is therefore suggested that adolescent girls began to increasingly consume soap opera series romances and adult series romances, with a concomitant decline in teen series romance consumption. The message that girls are receiving from the romance novels they are currently consuming is that finding Mr. Right makes life complete, although the search may be fraught with difficulties.