Valentines Day is upon us, so it's time to think about the psychology of love. This means we must address the Elephant In The Room, the big issue that everybody has an opinion on but nobody wants to talk about...
Should Harry have married Ginny - or Hermione?
The answer is NEITHER - and here's why...
Well, we notice that, despite the recessive gene, Ron's children are redheads too. Hermione's got a very fashionable coat. But where's Ginny? Off to one side, never making eye contact with husband Harry, all the time with a bit of a pained expression on her face.
OK, so she's seeing her son off to boarding school which is a tough time for any mother. It would be odd if she were laughing and joking. But why doesn't Harry comfort her? Or at least acknowledge her? And why does she trail a dozen feet behind him, distracted and remote?
This idea isn't new. Sigmund Freud proposed that just about everything we do or feel as adults is based on our relationships with our parents in childhood, but most psychologists are a bit dubious of Freud's ideas about the unconscious mind. I'm going to go all-out on Freud on a future blog and tie in Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ariel from The Little Mermaid - all those characters who clearly have HUGE parent-issues.
More relevant to Potter is the English psychologist John Bowlby who liked Freud's ideas but wanted to put them on a more scientific footing. Bowlby thought that human babies had a biological need to be close to their mothers and called this need "attachment", which he defined as:
lasting psychological connectedness between human beings
Bowlby suggested that a child's first attachment forms an "internal working model" - a sort of template for all future attachments. He suggests that babies form one of three types of early attachment:
This is the Weasley family, isn't it? Mr & Mrs Weasley show affection for their children and each other and the children are openly affectionate in return. So despite what JK and Emma Watson think, Ron should be good husband-material.
It's tempting to put Draco Malfoy in this category, with his cold, demanding parents and his own sulkiness and conflicted feelings. We catch a glimpse of Draco in the "19 Years Later" scene. Things don't look happy.
This has to be Harry. His parents were killed when he was an infant. That ought to be enough by itself to wreck a child's attachment for life, according to Bowlby. Other psychologists since Bowlby have argued that a "primary caregiver" can step in to replace the mother and the child can form attachment there instead - but look who Harry gets as caregivers: the Dursleys!
Sums up the psychological damage Harry Potter suffered perfectly
Living in a cupboard under the stairs. Bullied and neglected. Openly devalued by his caregivers in favour of his step-brother.
Ladies, do not marry this guy!
Hazan & Shaver tested this out by getting participants to fill out a "Love Quiz" in a local newspaper and send in the results. A checklist helped them work out which attachment type the respondents had with their parents and the quiz itself scored romantic relationships for how closely they resembled one attachment type of another.
You can try out a version of the quiz yourself:
Hazan & Shaver found a pretty clear correlation between childhood attachment and adult relationship styles.
So ladies, if your Valentine grew up with hateful adoptive parents who made him live in a cupboard under the stairs, DO NOT MARRY THIS GUY!
And I think we can see why Ginevra Potter-née-Weasley looks so tense in "19 Years Later". Marriage to Harry Potter must be pretty bleak. If only she'd stayed with that nice Dean Thomas!
Before you go away complaining I've ruined Harry Potter forever for you, it's only fair to critique this idea.
Firstly, it seems incredible that all our adult choices - important choices that we think and agonise about and consult our friends over and everything - are really smokescreens, because everything was really decided for us when we were 6 months old. Surely, the most Bowlby's "internal working model" can do is give us a predisposition, a sort of psychological "nudge" to act a certain way in relationships.
J K Rowling seems to get this. When Harry Potter gets "sorted" in his First Year, the Sorting Hat wants to assign him (quite rightly, IMO) to Slytherin, but Harry is determined to live a different life.
Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.
Nature versus Nurture is a theme throughout the Harry Potter series and this is a good example of nature (Harry's innate goodness, perhaps inherited from his parents) overcoming nurture (his rubbish childhood).
Harry repeats this message to his son Albus at the end of the series:
“But if it matters to you, you'll be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account."
It's a cheering thought to finish on: that we can choose who we want to be, the sort of relationships we want to have, no matter our childhoods. Of course, that also means that a good and happy childhood won't necessarily protect people from making bad choices. As for Harry Potter's marriage, I guess we'll find out on July 30.
The Psychology Wizard is Jonathan Rowe. I'm a teacher and writer, living in the Fens of Lincolnshire. It sure is flat here. I'm writing a Roman Horror Novel at the moment. Check out Tinderspark and The Thief Of Faces if you fancy a good read.