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1 September 2016

And They Lived Happily Ever After - How Romantic Movies Affect Teens' Romantic Beliefs

Keywords: characters, experiment, movies, parents, teens, television,

The idea of finding true love and living happily ever after is portrayed in almost every romcom and Disney movie. These movies can be a useful source of information for teens, who typically have a high interest in romance. Indeed, a Journal of Children and Media study reveals that especially young teenage girls experience stronger romantic beliefs after watching a romantic movie.

Take aways

  • Young adolescent girls who watch a romantic movie and feel a connection with their favorite movie character are more likely to develop idealistic romantic beliefs.
  • However, as girls become older the effect of romantic movies on romantic beliefs decreases. 

Study information

  • The question?

    What is the effect of a popular romantic teenage movie on girls’ beliefs about romantic relationships?

  • Who?

    88 11- to 14-year-old girls from seven different youth movements (e.g. the Scout Movement) in Belgium participated (mean age: 12 years old). 32 girls were attending primary school and the others attended secondary school. Moreover, 21% of the girls’ parents were divorced and 74% of the girls had had a boyfriend once. 

  • Where?


  • How?

    The experiment was presented as a youth movement activity and the girls from each movement watched either a non-romantic (Over the Hedge; n = 42) or a romantic movie (High School Musical; n = 46). A natural movie setting was created, the girls sat next to each other and drinks and snacks were provided. Immediately after seeing the movie, the girls filled out a questionnaire about the movie. In addition, the girls filled out another questionnaire about their social environment and romantic beliefs. The researchers told the girls that the second questionnaire was not related to the movie, nor to the first questionnaire.

Facts and findings

  • Girls who watched the romantic movie reported to have more idealistic romantic beliefs. 
  • However, this was only the case for girls who felt a strong connection with one of the movie characters
  • Age also played a role: Younger adolescent girls developed more romantic beliefs after watching a romantic movie than the older girls. This means that the older teenagers become, the less romantic beliefs they develop after watching a romantic movie.
  • Critical note: The increase in romantic beliefs was found immediately after having watched the movie. Long-term effects of romantic movies are not yet investigated.
  • Critical note: The researchers did not ask whether the girls had watched one of the High School Musical movies before. As these movies are quite popular among teenage girls, the participants could already be familiar with the movie characters and have a stronger connection with their favorite characters.