Pop singer Paul Anka and a very young Donny Osmond each had a hit with a song dedicated to the phenomenon known as puppy love. In the song, the singer denies accusations that his relationship with a young woman is little more than an adolescent crush. He insists their mutual feelings of love run deeper than a mere infatuation. This is the essence of puppy love, an early foray into the world of romantic relationships, often defined by immaturity and unreciprocated emotions.
This juvenile love may indeed feel like its deeper emotional cousin called "true love," but it usually has a fleeting quality that keeps it from developing any further than a serious crush. It often starts with a one-sided infatuation, perhaps for a seemingly unapproachable classmate or an attractive teacher or other authority figure. For the smitten one, these feelings of attraction can be very intense indeed, and they create the sort of distractions and obsessive thought patterns of true love.
Some young people gripped by puppy love will eventually make an effort to pursue a relationship with the object of their affection, with varying degrees of success. Occasionally, two people with similar afflictions will embark on a short adolescent romance with little to no expectations of a long-term commitment. Others may lack the social confidence to approach the object of their affections, keeping their feelings at the level of an unrequited crush.
Puppy love rarely reaches a level of concern for parents, although they may become concerned if their child's budding romance begins to interfere with their other obligations and basic needs. A young adolescent experiencing love for the first time may become easily distracted or less focused on other matters such as eating, sleeping, and schoolwork. The inevitable break-up may also create deep emotions that a young teen may not be prepared to handle. Parents should respect the fact that a youthful relationship can feel very real to the participants, and often mimics the same stages as a more mature romantic relationship.
The concept of a youthful infatuation or immature adolescent romance can be traced back for centuries. During the time of Shakespeare, the idea was often rendered as calf love, with the same basic premise of an immature romantic crush. In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is reminded of his former "calf love," a girl named Rosaline. Romeo's budding relationship with Juliet could be construed as a transition from a fleeting desire into a true, if tragic, romance for the ages.