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In modern individualistic societies on the other hand, romantic love is seen as the essential basis for marriage

In this respect, romantic love shares many physiological features in common with addiction and addictive behaviours

As these examples show, sociologists study many real-world topics. Their research often influences social policies and political issues. Results from sociological studies on this topic might play a role in developing federal policies like the Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits program, or they might bolster the efforts of an advocacy group striving to reduce social stigmas placed on stay-at-home dads, or they might help governments determine how to best allocate funding for education. Many European countries like Sweden have substantial family support policies, such as a full year of parental leave at 80% of wages when a child is born, and heavily subsidized, high-quality daycare and preschool programs. In Canada, a national subsidized daycare program existed briefly in 2005 but was scrapped in 2006 by the Conservative government and replaced with a $100-a-month direct payment to parents for each child. Sociologists might be interested in studying whether the benefits of the Swedish system – in terms of children’s well-being, lower family poverty, and gender equality – outweigh the drawbacks of higher Swedish tax rates.

What is love (for a sociologist)?

Throughout most of history, erotic love or romantic love was not considered a suitable basis for ilies through negotiations designed to increase wealth, property, or prestige, establish ties, or gain political advantages. In response to the question, “If a man muzmatch profile examples (woman) had all the other qualities you desired, would you marry this person if you were not in love with him (her)?” only 4% of Americans and Brazilians, 5% of Australians, 6% of Hong Kong residents, and 7% of British residents said they would – compared to 49% of Indians and 50% of Pakistanis (Levine, Sato, Hashimoto, and Verma, 1995). Despite the emphasis on romantic love, it is also recognized to be an unstable basis for long-term relationships as the feelings associated with it are transitory.

What exactly is romantic love? Neuroscience describes it as one of the central brain systems that have evolved to ensure mating, reproduction, and the perpetuation of the species (Fisher, 1992). Alongside the instinctual drive for sexual satisfaction, (which is relatively indiscriminate in its choice of object), and companionate love, (the long term attachment to another which enables mates to remain together at least long enough to raise a child through infancy), romantic love is the intense attraction to a particular person that focuses “mating energy” on a single person at a single time. It manifests as a seemingly involuntary, passionate longing for another person in which individuals experience obsessiveness, craving, loss of appetite, possessiveness, anxiety, and compulsive, intrusive thoughts. In studies comparing functional MRI brain scans of maternal attachment to children and romantic attachment to a loved one, both types of attachment activate oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in regions in the brain’s reward system while suppressing regions associated with negative emotions and critical judgement of others (Bartels and Zeki, 2004; Acevedo, Aron, Fisher and Brown, 2012).

In a sociological context, the physiological manifestations of romantic love are associated with a number of social factors. Love itself might be described as the general force of attraction that draws people together; a principle agency that enables society to exist. As Freud defined it, love in the form of eros, was the force that strove to “form living substance into ever greater unities, so that life ent” (Freud cited in Marcuse, 1955). In this sense, as Erich Fromm put it, “[l]ove is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love” (Fromm, 1956). Fromm argues therefore that love can take many forms: brotherly love, the sense of care for another human; motherly love, the unconditional love of a mother for a child; erotic love, the desire for complete fusion with another person; self-love, the ability to affirm and accept oneself; and love of God, a sense of universal belonging or union with a higher or sacred order.

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