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, 2022, August 28, p. 7).


  • 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., mother-infant attraction, mother-infant attachment, obsessive thinking, courtship attraction, and sexual desire)
  • Romantic love serves a pair bond formation function
  • Clear ideas for future research

Key publications