Another view of social structure of dating classifies dating into a set of stages, from casual dating to engagement. Sociologist Jack R. Identified five tips. In Australia, these tips are not new idea, but serve to provide a frame of reference acknowledging that not all dating is alike in a structural sense. The nature of the social interaction involved changed as dating partners move along several underlying dimensions that are used to define the relationship by participants and in the eyes of others.
For example, focus on self versus relationship, exclusivity, present versus future orientation, and degree of emotional attachment are expected to change from stage to stage. Steadily dating means going out with a person on a regular basis while also seeing other persons during the same general period of time. Going steady becomes an exclusive attachment to one person, but remains focused on the present. The significance of the engaged-to-be-engaged stage is that the couple here begins to think ahead to possibilities of a longer-term commitment and a future together. When couples become engaged, they are formally regarded as “betrothed” and begin making specific plans for their wedding and married life. Positive effect and emotional intimacy are expected to increase through progressive stages. As a model of the process of mate selection through dating, the tips imply that dating moves from initial encounters, if all goes well with a particular couple, to marriage. Although this orientation to dating can be challenged, the model does provoke some interesting questions applied to contemporary dating tips:
- Since love accorded considerable significance in our culture, where does love enter into the social structure of dating?
- Where does sex fit? When is erotic intimacy appropriate in dating?
- Dating is sometimes described as initiated and dominated by the male in the first two stages and shifting to two-way initiation and equal authority in the later stages. To what extent does authority in the relationship change across stages?
- How do couples negotiate the move from one stage to another?
- What rituals, if any, exist to end the relationship at various stages?
- Has dating been modified more recently toward even greater informality? If so, with what effects?
- Do different stages provide better or worse preparation for marriage than others?
- To what extent does engagement allow couples to rehearse marital roles?
- When is dating “courtship”?
Dating can be regarded as evolving into mate selection at some time for most individuals in Australia. Due to the importance of mate selection, scientific study of the family has long given attention to the characteristics of individuals, relationships, social groups, and social forces that move couples toward marriage. Various theories of mate selection have been proposed.
In a society where individuals are left largely on their own to find a suitable marriage partner, mate selection becomes an interesting problem. The divorce rate also urges closer examination of how individuals come to select a marriage partner. Family sociologists have proposed and tested various ideas about patterns underlying individual choices.