Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Influence of Parental Romantic Relationships on College Students' Attitudes about Romantic Relationships

Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Influence of Parental Romantic Relationships on College Students' Attitudes about Romantic Relationships

Article excerpt

Many marriages are at risk for dissolution partly because many individuals do not have healthy examples to follow. Unmarried college students' completed a survey designed to assess their attitudes about relationships and whether attitudes differed based on their perceptions of their parents' relationships or marital status. It was hypothesized that students who reported positive parental relationships would have attitudes less likely to put them at risk for divorce than those who reported negative parental relationships. Participants reported attitudes that were problematic; however, those with positive parental models did not report less risky attitudes than those with negative parental models. In addition, those from non-intact homes were more likely to report parents' relationships as poor examples to follow than those from intact homes.


When individuals marry they do not expect that their marriages will end in divorce. However, it is estimated that 40 to 50% of marriages will end in divorce (Whitehead & Popenoe, 2006). In 2001, 20% of adults indicated that they have experienced a divorce and that their marriages lasted about 8 years (Krieder, 2005). Whitehead and Popenoe (2006) also report a decline in marriage rates, an increase in non-marital cohabitation, an increase in the number of births to unmarried women, and an increase in single parent households. With such a high level of marital instability how likely then is it for a young adult to have had a healthy example of romantic relationships and marriage while growing up, before he or she begins to date, marry, or have children?

In addition to what young adults may have been directly and indirectly taught by their parents and families about marriage and relationships, they are constantly receiving information from the mass media. Many of the sitcoms, commercials, and reality television shows promote a culture of pleasure seeking, instant gratification and casual attitudes about relationships and sex. The association between television viewing and attitudes has already been established. For example, research has shown that viewing sexual violence increases young men's acceptance of violence against women (Malamuth & Check, 1981). There is not a lot of research on the role of the mass media in relationship beliefs but the research thus far has found that individuals who report higher levels of "romantic media" exposure (television, movies, magazines, music) have more dysfunctional beliefs about relationships (Shapiro & Kroeger, 1991). Similarly, a relationship has also been found between viewing television soap operas and dysfunctional relationship beliefs (Haferkamp, 1999). Haferkamp (1999) found that students who routinely viewed soap operas were significantly more likely to believe that mind reading is necessary in relationships, partners can't change, and that it is important to find the perfect sexual experience.

With the ever increasing amount of implicit and explicit messages about relationships and sex being disseminated on a daffy basis by the mass media, young adults have a lot of competing information to sift through. The messages disseminated by the media do not always match up with what research reveals as keys to successful relationships and may direct one down a path of relationship dissatisfaction and dissolution. Research has revealed various factors that place individuals at risk for divorce. Some of these factors include parental divorce, premarital cohabitation, premarital sex, premarital birth, religion, and attitude similarity (Miller, Perlman, & Brehm, 2007). In addition, ineffective communication is commonly given as a reason for divorce. The literature on each of these factors will be briefly discussed.

Parental divorce

Amato and Booth (2001) concluded that the quality of parents' marriage has an impact on children's marriages. Amato and Booth (2001) found that parental marriages exhibiting poor interpersonal behaviors including being jealous, domineering, critical, moody and angry predicted discord in their children's marriages. …

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