Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Paths to Intimate Relationship Quality from Parent-Adolescent Relations and Mental Health

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Paths to Intimate Relationship Quality from Parent-Adolescent Relations and Mental Health

Article excerpt

Scholars have long been interested in understanding how experiences in one's family of origin may shape later romantic relationship success. Much research in this area has focused on the intergenerational transmission of relationship quality from parents to their children by identifying elements within parents' marriages that are then perpetuated within children's later relationships. This line of inquiry has been fruitful, revealing key processes within parents' marriages that appear to affect children's subsequent romantic relationships, centering on parental marital discord and divorce (Amato & Booth, 2001; Cui, Fincham, & Pasley, 2008; Mustonen, Huurre, Kiviruusu, Haukkala,&Aro, 2011) and physical and verbal aggression (Cui, Durtschi, Donnellan, Lorenz, & Conger, 2010). Scholars have generally concluded that negative interactions within parents' marriages are more robust indicators of children's future relationships than positive interactions (Amato & Booth, 2001; Whitton et al., 2008). Less is known about how functioning in the family of origin aside from parental marital quality is related to children's romantic relationship success and, in particular, mediators that might link functioning in these two domains. The current study is novel in that it explored how the quality of parent-adolescent relationships is directly connected with intimate relationship quality during young adulthood and indirectly associated via the mechanism of depressive symptoms and self-esteem during the transition to adulthood. We tested this model using multi-informant data from Waves 1, 3, and 4 of the public-use National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health [http://www. cpc.unc.edu/projects/addhealth]; n=2,970).

BACKGROUND

To guide our analysis of how parent-adolescent relationship quality might be related to young adult intimate relationship quality, we followed a life-span developmental systems perspective. This perspective emphasizes the importance of examining behavior as a function of both past and concurrent experience (i.e., a longitudinal, life span focus); assumes some continuity in the same behavior domain as well as cascading influences from one domain to another (i.e., cross-domain associations) across time (Baltes, Lindenberger, & Staudinger, 1998; Cox, Mills- Koonce, Propper, & Gariepy, 2010; Lerner, 2006); and highlights transitional periods as windows of opportunity and risk, which can lead to discontinuities in behavior and divert the course of development (Schulenberg & Zarrett, 2006). Adolescence (roughly, the teens) and the transition to adulthood (the early 20s) are critical periods in the life span during which psychosocial competencies, such as intimate relationship skills, are further developed and refined, laying the foundation for conquering common developmental tasks (e.g., marriage and parenthood) in young adulthood (the later 20s and early 30s; Roisman, Masten, Coatsworth, & Tellegen, 2004; Vargas Lascano, Galambos, & Hoglund, 2013). As such, intimate relationship functioning in young adulthood is likely to be influenced by both interpersonal and intrapersonal processes that take place in adolescence and the transition to adulthood (Bryant & Conger, 2002; Conger, Cui, Bryant, & Elder, 2000; Cui et al., 2010; Whitton et al., 2008). The theoretical model and the anticipated direction of associations between the key constructs of interest are depicted in Figure 1.

Applying the developmental systems perspective to understanding young adult intimate relationships, we asked the following question: To what extent does a key interpersonal construct (i.e., the parent-adolescent relationship) predict young adult intimate relationship quality (a cascading, cross-domain association)? Aspects of parent-adolescent relations are expected to carry over into intimate affiliations, as internal working models of close relationships are acquired in the family of origin and important skills (e. …

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