The authors state that their "central objective here is to address consequential gaps in knowledge about boys’ relationship experiences." They have used a symbolic interactionist perspective in their work. This school of sociology views society through individuals' interaction with each other via the use of symbols.
The study's purpose was to test the widely-accepted theory of a "spillover" effect whereby adolescent boys carry over their competitive style of peer relationships with other males into the arena of heterosexual relationships. This leads to expectations that boys will enter into relationships as adolescents with greater confidence and less emotional commitment than girls. They note that prior research has centered on boys' social interactions with their male peers and, to some extent, girls' romantic ties. The dating experience itself, especially that of boys, has not been sufficiently investigated.
Communication, emotion, and influence among dating adolescents are the subjects of the study. They summarize findings related to these three areas. Their paper emphasizes the conclusions of, amongst others, the eminent cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, who said that "the self is continuously shaped by dynamic social processes." They also note that many of the factors accepted as underlying gender-based inequality, such as childbearing and unequal employment opportunities, have not yet come to bear in adolescence.
Specifically, the authors attempt to test the validity of assumptions that boys will be dominant in relationships and that girls will have less influence because of their romantic views. Giordano and her fellow researchers used data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study, a multi-year survey of adolescent behavior.