Young adults: eros lovers and their life satisfaction

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This study examined the differences in the level of Eros among younger adults and older adults and the relationship between the level of Eros and life satisfaction on 120 Malaysians, comprising 60 younger adults and 60 older adults. The participants filled up a consent form and were each given the SWLS and LAS-SF questionnaires. Results revealed that age had no significant relationship with the level of Eros and that the higher the level of Eros significantly contributed to lower level of life satisfaction. The research hypothesis were that more younger adults fall in the category of Eros compared to older adults and the higher the level of Eros, the higher the level of life satisfaction. Both the research hypothesis were not supported.

Keywords: Eros, adults, life satisfaction

Love Types and Life Satisfaction: Younger Adults vs. Older Adults

Almost everybody in this world would experience falling in love at one point in his or her life. It could happen when they are young, which are between the ages 18 to 30, or when they are much older, between 31 to 60 years old. Love is defined as a strong feeling of affection for someone or it could be affection with some degree of sexual attraction for someone (Hornby, 2005). Adult on the other hand is defined as “a fully grown person who is legally responsible for his action” (Hornby, 2005, p. 20). The famous theory on love types was introduced by John Lee (1973). He categorised love types into six dimensions known as Eros, Pragma, Ludus, Storge, Mania and Agape. According to Aron & Westbay (1996), Eros lovers tend to be loving and adoring, Pragma lovers are realistic, Ludus lovers enjoy flirting, Storge lovers base their relationship on friendship, Mania lovers are domineering while Agape lovers portray unconditional love. There are two divisions in John Lee’s theory which are the Primary Styles and the Secondary Styles. According to Lee (1973), Eros, Ludus and Storge are the Primary Styles, while Mania, which is a combination of Eros and Ludus, Pragma, which is a combination of Ludus and Storge, and Agape, which is the combination of Eros and Storge are the Secondary Styles. Clyde Hendrick and Susan S. Hendrick developed James Lee’s theory further by coming up with a scale called The Love Attitude Scale which helps in categorizing couples in a relationship into various categories as defined under Lee’s theory. The Love Attitude Scale is a multi-dimensional scale that measures six different concepts or love styles (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1989). It is also said that The Love Attitude Scale is deemed to have a direct link to people’s general perception on love (Aron & Westbay). This study aims to identify whether the ratio of younger adults falling in the category of Eros is higher than of the older adults.

There are few researchers who believe that the Eros lover is known as someone who is romantic, passionate and who promotes intimacy in a relationship (e.g., Neto, 2005; Baur & Crooks, 2007). According to Hendrick (2004), the Eros lover is loyal, fully committed and able to control the extent of the relationship. More younger adults fall in the category of Eros compared to older adults. Based on a study conducted on 57 dating couples (87% White, 11% Hispanic with 43% of them aged 19, 30% of them aged of 20 to 22 and 19% of them aged 23-30) in a university by Hendrick, Hendrick, & Adler (1988), concluded that college-aged young adults have a higher correlation to Eros, Mania and Agape compared to Storge and Pragma as the relationship assessment measures used had a strong positive correlation with Eros. In another study involving 700 college students, it was found that a majority of them were Eros type lovers (Tzeng, Woolridge & Campbell, 2003). This study was done on a large number of samples, thus the findings can be well substantiated. According to Knox, Schacht, & Zusman (1999), younger adults are more likely to believe in “love at first sight” and “love conquers all” than older adults. These younger adults fantasize that they can overcome every challenge in a relationship with love. The study by Knox et al., 1999 on 184 undergraduates from East Carolina University college students where 68% of them were women and 32% of them were men with a median age of 19 regarding their views on love supports my stance that more younger adults fall in the category of Eros compared to older adults as other love types develop with age and experience.

On the other hand, there is a study conducted by Montgomery and Sorell (1997) on 250 adults consisting of college-aged, married couples with (young and older children) and without child, concluding that both younger adults and older adults can be classified as Eros type lovers. According to Wang and Nguyen (1995), in a study involving 255 people covering all age groups from teenagers to the aged adults (teenagers’ mean age was 15.22 years, younger adults’ mean age was 25.98 years, the middle-aged adults’ mean age was 39.56 years and older adults’ mean age was 66.73 years) from the United States, Eros is not just meant for younger adults but for adults of all ages too. They studied the level of passionate love all the way through adulthood to find out whether passion in a relationship reduces over time but they found out that age has no significant relationship with passionate love.

Does love type relate to life satisfaction? This study also focuses on the link between love types and life satisfaction. The higher the level of Eros, the higher the level of satisfaction in life. Diener & Suh, 1997 (as cited in Civitci, Civitci, & Fiyakali, 2009) mentioned that life satisfaction is about how happy and satisfied a person feels about his life from all angles. In conclusion, the definition of life satisfaction varies from one type of personality to the other. Satisfaction in life can be measured using the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) created by Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen and Sharon Griffin in the year 1985. According to Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin (1985), the SWLS is a global measure that evaluates a person’s subjective life satisfaction. It is a five-item questionnaire where it measures the balance between what a person intends to achieve and what he has already achieved in his life. It is also known to be one dimensional and it focuses on a person’s mental well-being. This scale can be used to assess adults who are experiencing conflicts in their lives. According to Baur & Crooks (2007), life satisfaction in a relationship means the feeling of being happy and content with what you and your partner are currently experiencing being together. He also claims that Eros lover, being romantic and continuously interested in sexual fulfilment keeps the magic alive throughout the relationship. Hendrick et al. (1988), mentioned that Eros lovers, being intimate and expressive in communicating their feelings minimise conflicts and help to increase the satisfaction in a relationship thus, leading to higher life satisfaction. Since Eros is known as a passionate type of love that reveals high self-worth, it is the love style that has close linkages to satisfaction. They also claim that it has a positive effect on relationship satisfaction. To further support that the more the Eros type lover a person is, the higher the probability of life satisfaction, there are two measures of satisfaction known as Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) and Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS). According to Hendrick et al. (1988), the higher the readings in these scales, the higher the satisfaction in life. These scales have strong positive correlation with Eros. Hendrick et al. (1988) also claimed that the satisfaction in a relationship relies upon how open a person is with his partner and the loyalty in their relationship. In addition, they also claimed that Eros has positive correlation with satisfaction of both parties in a relationship. All of these factors lead towards higher life satisfaction for a person. According to Hendrick and Hendrick (1989) who conducted a study over 807 students (466 males, 341 females, 41% of them aged 18 or below, 29% of them aged 19 and 30% of them aged 20 and above, mostly single students, and White-non-Hispanic) from University of Miami, Eros has a positive correlation with Secure Attachment Style. In other words, the higher the level of Eros, the higher the level a person is able to interact easily with others without having any concerns about being neglected or getting too attached to a person. They also claimed that Eros is positively correlated with Stenberg’s Triangular Theory of Love Scale developed in the year 1986. Under this scale, there are three components, being Intimacy, which is the closeness established between two partners, Passion, which is the feeling of fervour at the sight of the partner, and Commitment, which is the faithfulness and seriousness in a relationship. Based on Hendrick and Hendrick, the Relationship Rating Form created by Davis in the year 1982 has a six factor-model. It comprises Viability, which is whether you find the partner suitable. Intimacy, where you identify whether you know the person thoroughly including their positive and negative sides. Passion, which links to whether the partner is always on your mind. Care, which means whether you can depend on your partner in times of need. Satisfaction, which is about how much you mean to your partner. Lastly, Conflict in terms of uneasiness and constant disagreements in the relationship. According to Hendrick and Hendrick, this scale has a positive relationship with Eros involving all the factors except for the Conflict factor, thus leading to higher life satisfaction. In addition, based on Hendrick and Hendrick, Eros has a positive relationship with Passionate Love Scale that was developed by Hatfield and Sprecher in the year 1986. This scale evaluates the passion that one feels for their partner that there would be nothing that would make them happier than to be with their partner. They also mentioned that the higher this measurement is the more satisfying their relationship is and this contributes to higher life satisfaction.

On the other hand, according to Hendrick and Hendrick (1989), Eros is negatively related to the Avoidant Attachment Item, which measures a person’s inability to trust another person and feels uneasy when someone tries to be intimate. As mentioned earlier, Eros is negatively correlated with Davis’s Conflict subscale (Hendrick & Hendrick). Apart from love satisfaction, self-esteem is also one of the predictors of life satisfaction. According to Hong and Giannakopoulos (1994) who studied on 1749 adults (17- 40 years old) in Sydney, self-esteem contributes 21.4% and depression contributes 9.7% of the variance in life satisfaction. According to Hendrick et al. (1988), there are other important factors that lead to higher life satisfaction such as loyalty, self-respect and sexual behaviour. As most of the existing research was done on White, Hispanic and Black population, thus this research on the Malaysian sample is important.

Hypothesis

In view, that most young adults are passionate lovers and that Eros lovers are content with their relationship thus increasing their life satisfaction, it can therefore be predicted that younger adults fall in the category of Eros compared to older adults and that the higher the level of Eros type lover a person is, the higher the level of life satisfaction.

Methodology

Study Design

Participants had to fill up a set of questionnaire consisting Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) and the Love Attitude Scale (LAS-SF). It is a survey based non-experimental study. This study has two hypotheses with age (younger adults or older adults) as the independent variable while level of Eros was the dependent variable for the first hypothesis. On the other hand, for the second hypothesis level of Eros was the independent variable while level of life satisfaction was the dependent variable.

Participants

The questionnaires were administered to 120 participants (60 young adults and 60 older adults) mostly around Klang Valley and Ipoh. 48 of them were males and 71 of them were females (1 missing data). The participants were asked to select which age group that they fall in, whether as younger adults (18 years of age to 30 years of age) or as older adults (31 years of age to 60 years of age). As for the younger adult group, most of them were Sunway University College students because it was convenient for carry out the survey with willing participants. While for the older adults, participants from cities like Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Subang answered the questionnaires because it was convenient to distribute the questionnaires to participants from bigger cities in view of their open mindedness to answer the various types of questions in the questionnaires, including some questions that probed into their personal lives. The participants were asked (as seen in Table 1) on their gender (Male or Female), relationship status (Single, In a Relationship, Married, Widowed, Separated or Divorced) and ethnicity (Malay, Chinese, Indian or others). Other than that, they were also asked on the highest level of education achieved (Primary School, Secondary School, Diploma or equivalent, Bachelors Degree or equivalent, or Postgraduate Degree either Masters or Doctor level) and finally on their religion (Islam, Chinese, Hinduism, Christian or others).

Table 1

Demographics

Variable N %

Age

18-30 years old (younger adults) 60 50.00

31-60 years old (older adults) 60 50.00

Gender

Male 48 40.00

Female 71 59.20

Missing 1 0.80

Relationship Status

Single 45 37.50

In A Relationship 26 21.70

Married 46 38.30

Widowed 2 1.70

Separated 1 0.80

Divorced 0 0.00

Ethnic

Malay 9 7.50

Chinese 56 46.70

Indian 48 40.00

Others 7 5.80

Highest Level Of Education Achieved

Primary School 0 0.00

Secondary School 22 18.30

Diploma Or Equivalent 35 29.20

Bachelors Degree Or Equivalent 54 45.00

Postgraduate Degree (Master Or Doctor Level) 9 7.50

Religion

Islam 10 8.30

Chinese 27 22.50

Hinduism 41 34.20

Christian 39 32.50

Others 2 1.70

Missing 1 0.80

Measurement

The demographic section provided basic information on the participants. The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) is a 5-item scale that refers to the cognitive-judgemental aspects of general life satisfaction where the participants were told to analyze and judge their satisfaction in life by themselves aided by the SWLS. Those questions were answered using a likert scale starting from score 1 that refers to “strongly disagree” to score 7 that refers to “strongly agree” to the statements in SWLS in reference to the participants’ life. The way SWLS is scored is by summing up the total scores ranging from 5 to 35. The higher the sum of the scores means that there is a higher level of life satisfaction. An example of a question from SWLS is “In most ways, my life is close to ideal.” Appendix B presents a sample of the SWLS.

The next set of questionnaires given to the participants was the Love Attitude Scale – Short Form (LAS-SF). The LAS-SF scale consist of 24 items that measures what kind of a lover the participant is referring to their current relationship, their past relationship or how they intend their future relationship to be. This scale was developed based on John Lee’s theory of love types. Those 24 items were divided according to the 6 love types (Eros, Ludus, Storge, Pragma, Mania and Agape) to identify which category that the participants fall into. Item 1 to 4 measures Eros (the most important 4 questions in this study), item 5 to 8 measures Ludus, items 9 to 12 measures Storge, items 13 to 16 measures Pragma, items 17 to 20 measures Mania and finally, items 21 to 24 measures Agape. The items are scored using a likert scale ranging from A (Strongly agree with the statement) to E (strongly disagree with the statement). A was converted to being number 1, B to number 2, C to number 3, D to number 4 and E to number 5 to ease the calculation process. The LAS-SF is scored by calculating the average figure for each love type. For example, the scores for question 1 to 4 were added and the divided by 4 to obtain an average figure. This will be done for all the categories. The higher the score is for that love type, than it can be concluded that the participant falls in that particular category of love. An example of an Eros item is “My partner and I have the right physical “chemistry” between us”. Appendix C presents a sample of LAS-SF.

As for the SWLS, according to Diener et al. (1985), this test has demonstrated a good internal consistency (α = .87), a good test-retest reliability that consist of a .82 correlation over a 2 months period and has concurrent validity. According to Diener et al. (1985), SWLS has a relationship with self-worth, clinical conditions, negativity in a person and the state of emotion of a person.

On the other hand, according to Diener et al. (1985), LAS-SF projects a good internal consistency (α: .75 to .88) and has a good test-retest correlations (.70 to .82), as it has been tested for seven weeks. LAS-SF also consists of discriminative validity that accounts for the level of participants’ self-worth and whether they have experience falling in love before or currently experiencing falling in love. According to Aron and Westbay (1996), LAS-SF has construct validity as it predicts of how a person would view love as a few ways towards convergent and discriminant validity.

Procedure

Consent forms (as in Appendix A) were given to all the participants to ensure that their information is kept confidential and to inform them on their rights to withdraw from the study at any time that they felt uncomfortable. They were told to answer the questions on their own and not hesitate in asking the researchers any questions or issues on the questionnaire. Those who read and signed the consent form, were then given the SWLS and LAS-SF. It took each individual approximately 20 minutes to answer all the questions. As all the participants were above the age of 18, there was no need for parent consent form. Most of the time, the SWLS and LAS-SF were administered to a group of participants other than administering it individually.

Results

Statistical analysis

Independent Sample Test

The relationship between level of age (younger adults or older adults) and the level of Eros was investigated using Independent T-test. As seen in Table 2, there is no significant relationship between age (younger adults or older adults) and the level of Eros, t(df) = .802, p > .05, mean for young adults = 2.15, mean for older adults = 2.03. There is no difference with age (younger adults or older adults) with the level of Eros. Hypothesis is not supported.

Table 3

Mean Differences Between Younger Adults And Older Adults In The Level Of Eros

Variable Mean t df p

Younger Adults (18-30 years old) 2.15 .802 118 .424

Older Adults (31-60 years old) 2.03 .802 118 .424

Correlation Analysis

The relationship between life satisfaction and level of Eros was investigated using Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. As seen in Table 3, there is a significant linear relationship between those variables, r = -.334, p < .001. There is a moderate negative relationship between life satisfaction and level of Eros. The higher the level of Eros, the lower the level of life satisfaction. Thus, the hypothesis is not supported.

Table 3

Correlations Between The Average Level Of Eros And The Satisfaction With Life Scale

Measure Satisfaction With Life Scale

Average Level Of Eros -.33***

***p<.001

Discussion:

The outcome of this study did not support the hypothesis mentioned that young adults are more Eros type lovers and Eros has a positive correlation with life satisfaction. The results of this study is consistent with the outcome of the studies conducted by Montgomery and Sorell (1997) and Wang and Nguyen (1995) to support that Eros type love is not more common among younger adults and inconsistent with the outcome of studies conducted by Hendrick et al. (1988), Tzeng et al. (2003) and Knox et al. (1999). While the outcome that Eros is negatively correlated with life satisfaction is consistent with the result of the studies conducted by Hendrick and Hendrick (1989) in the Avoidant Attachment Item and the Davis’s Conflict’s subscales. In addition, based on the study conducted by Hong and Giannakopoulos (1994), there are other predictors to life satisfaction. The results of this study is inconsistent with the studies conducted by Baur & Crooks (2007) and scales (Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS), Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS), Secure Attachment Style, Stenberg’s Triangular Theory of Love Scale and Relationship Rating Form) used in the study conducted by Hendrick et al. (1988). Nevertheless, the study is important as a basis on understanding the love attitude among the Malaysian population in particular whether younger adults have higher level of Eros than older adults. Two main reasons could be cited for the non-supportive results. Firstly, the size of the sample was small, only 120 participants which is not substantial enough to represent the entire Malaysian population which is approximately 28 million. Secondly, the sample population was represented by friends and relatives or referrals from other friends which resulted in the participants not being open about revealing their actual self given that the questions were very personal. While this study is reflective of the Eros type love among the Malaysian population, many previous studies have been conducted on White, Hispanic and Black population (western culture based participants). The culture differences in both Western countries and the Asian countries are very vast. In the western countries, exposure to intimacy and openness in a relationship is far ahead of Asians. Although modernisation has swept over the younger generation of Asians, culture continues to have some influence on their love styles. According to Hendrick and Hendrick (1986), Oriental participants scored lesser Eros compared to participants of other ethnic background. They also found that Oriental participants mostly fell in the category of Pragma compared to other love types. Based on this, it appears that Asians tend to apply logical skills when it comes to selecting their partners and handling a relationship and not through romance or passionate love in comparison to Western country participants from the same age group. According to a study done by Wang and Mallinckrodt (2006) to distinguish the difference between Taiwanese adults and US adults on their attachment in a relationship in view of the difference in cultural beliefs. It was found that Taiwanese adults were less expressive of their feelings and were not culturally inclined to project intimacy in a relationship which supports that culture influences love types in an individual. In another study conducted by Inman (2006) on South Asians living in the US to examine whether cultural values contradict with intimacy in relationships, it was found that although they adjusted to fit into some of the US social practices, they were bound by their cultural values when it came to dating and intimacy in relationships.

The non-conclusive results of our study call for further studies to overcome the limitations of this study. Future studies should take into consideration gender, race and educational and socioeconomic background in determining whether younger adults are more Eros type lovers than older adults.

On life satisfaction, there are other predictors that lead to life satisfaction apart from love satisfaction. Self-esteem, wealth and job satisfaction are some of the other predictors of life satisfaction. Self-esteem is a very important factor to determine life satisfaction. Individuals who feel good about themselves and their lives and are always looking at the positive side of things will naturally be more satisfied with their lives than individuals who always feel that they are not good enough at anything. According to Hong and Giannakopoulos (1994), self-esteem contributes 21.4% and depression contributes 9.7% of the variance in life satisfaction. This is supported by Hendrick et al. (1988), stating that there are other important factors that lead to higher life satisfaction such as loyalty, self-respect and sexual behaviour. Wealth is another factor that contributes towards life satisfaction as a person is able to satisfy his desires and wants which are of material value if he has enough money to create a comfortable life for him. People are generally wishing for more wealth for a better quality of life. Based on a study done by Diener, Ng, Harter and Arora (2010) on income earned and the capacity to meet an individual’s needs from basic needs to luxury items showed a positive relation to well being or life satisfaction. Having job satisfaction is another leading factor to life satisfaction. Job satisfaction comes from feeling good about the nature of the job, place of work, the boss, the office environment and work culture. Feeling good about going to work every morning will make an individual happy about his life. According to Senter, Morgan, Serna-McDonald, and Bewley (2010), there was a significant positive correlation between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. The study showed that the life satisfaction of employees who were burned out or stressed out at work was affected.

With regard to future research, more studies should be done on how much would love types contribute towards life satisfaction especially among older adults. Another suggestion would be to conduct more studies among the Asian population to derive a more accurate result that covers the global population on both love types and life satisfaction. This research is one of its kind as it is comparing the love attitude of Malaysians, young and old adults and their interaction with life satisfaction. It can be concluded that the results raise serious questions about how young Malaysian adults view love and how much love types contribute towards life satisfaction compared to the other predictors.

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