Caught in a Bad Romance? The Negative Effect of Normative Dating and Marital Ideologies on Women’s Bodies

Elizabeth A. Sharp, Kristina Keyton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


A growing body of recent research has linked romantic relationships, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating. Exploring these linkages in the present study by using a broader framing than in previous research, we investigated the influence of normative romantic ideologies on college women’s bodies. Drawing on post-structural feminism, we examined effects of gendered dating and marital scripts and “singlism” (investing in romance as a primary life goal) on investment in thinness/appearance and disordered eating among 496 undergraduate women attending a large U.S. Southwestern university. We predicted that higher endorsement of romantic relationship ideologies will directly predict higher disordered eating as well as directly predict higher investment in thinness/appearance. We also predicted that investment in thinness/appearance will directly predict disordered eating. Using Structural Equation Modeling, our findings indicated that higher endorsement of normative romantic ideologies was associated with higher preoccupation with thinness/appearance and preoccupation with thinness was linked to higher disordered eating. Normative romantic ideologies were not directly related to disordered eating. Our findings indicate that underlying ideologies about normative romance are likely contributing to a desire to be thin/look attractive which, in turn, puts women at risk for disordered eating. We call attention to problematic normative heterosexual romantic ideologies and post-feminist sensibilities circulating within contemporary contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-27
Number of pages13
JournalSex Roles
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Body image
  • Dating
  • Disordered eating
  • Feminism
  • Romance
  • Romantic relationships


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