New approach to the science of romantic love

Theory of co-opting mother-infant bonding

Adam is a proponent of a theory that says romantic love evolved by co-opting mother-infant bonding. Co-option is the process whereby a trait is reproduced to serve a different function than it originally served. “[S]ome of the cognitions, emotions, behaviors, neurobiology, (neuro)endocrinology, and genetics of mother-infant bonding were co-opted to form romantic love… The function changed from mother-infant bonding to pair bonding (i.e., pair bond formation). Other mechanisms and psychology (i.e., courtship attraction and sexual desire) may have also been combined and modified…” (Bode, 2023, p. 4).


  • Romantic love and mother-infant bonding share a number of psychological similarities
  • Both romantic love and mother-infant bonding are associated with obsessive thinking
  • There are a number of neurobiological similarities between romantic love and mother-infant bonding
  • There are (neuro)endocrinological similarities between romantic love and mother-infant bonding (i.e., oxytocin activity)

Key insights

  • Romantic love results from activity of multiple biological systems involved in human reproduction (i.e., bonding attraction, attachment, obsessive thinking, courtship attraction, and sexual desire)
  • Romantic love serves a pair bond formation function
  • Clear ideas for future research

Key publications