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Prejudice, Sense, Middle or Madding? Towards a Christian Ethical Framework for Heterosexual Dating in Contemporary Anglo-American Contexts

LEONG, REBECCA,BEK,EE (2022) Prejudice, Sense, Middle or Madding? Towards a Christian Ethical Framework for Heterosexual Dating in Contemporary Anglo-American Contexts. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 15 July 2025.


There are diverse forms of heterosexual dating practices in contemporary Anglo-American contexts intersecting with social and economic changes, medical advances and technological developments.

This thesis seeks to explore what dating approaches help realise or promote “happy flourishing lifelong monogamous” marriages. Its trajectory is towards establishing a Christian ethical framework for contemporary Anglo-American heterosexual dating. Its method is interdisciplinary, engaging, in successive chapters, with theology, history, sociology, psychology, people's lived experiences and Christian virtue ethics.

A four-fold typology of dating approaches is developed, based on two main directions of inquiry: criteria for selection of one's marriage partner (functional to non-functional approaches) and degree of openness to physical intimacy prior to or without monogamous marriage (non-permissive to permissive approaches). Data from an empirical study reveal that among ten long-term happily-married couples, the vast majority of dating approaches are “Moderate” or “Conservative”, indicating a possible association between long-term happy marriages and dating approaches combining both romantic and practical considerations for selecting marriage partners and adopting moderate openness to premarital physical intimacy, clearly correlated to commitment. Interview responses also include recurring themes of the centrality of mutual support and companionship for long-term marital stability.

Further, through investigating psychological research relating to romantic relationships and human personality and development, five "approaches that help" are proposed. It is argued these approaches may be regarded as a practical outworking of the application of prudence, along with other virtues proposed. Overall, a five-fold ethic, developed in relation to an integrated multifaceted model of interpretation of the imago Dei and comprising cardinal virtues of courage, justice, temperance, prudence and an over-arching, recalibrating, virtue of love and care, is offered as the core for better approaches to dating.

Together, these findings and proposals form the building blocks for a Christian ethical framework for heterosexual dating in contemporary Anglo-American contexts.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:marriage, dating, contemporary, sexual ethics, interdisciplinary, empirical study, virtue ethics
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Jul 2022 10:31

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