Academic journal article Family Relations

Relationship Education and Classroom Climate Impact on Adolescents' Standards for Partners/Relationships

Academic journal article Family Relations

Relationship Education and Classroom Climate Impact on Adolescents' Standards for Partners/Relationships

Article excerpt

Relationship education for youth has been found to facilitate the correction of faulty relationship beliefs and the development of conflict-management skills (Adler-Baeder, Ker- pelman, Schramm, Higginbotham, & Paulk, 2007; Kerpelman et al., 2010); however, there is scarce research addressing whether relationship education matters for building or modifying standards for romantic partners or relationships, particularly those associated with higher quality relationships (for an exception, see Kerpelman, Pittman, Adler-Baeder, Eryigit, & Paulk, 2009). Fletcher, Simpson, Thomas, and Giles (1999) described these standards as continuously accessible knowledge structures pertaining to romantic partners or relationships. Almost no work has considered the potentially independent and interactive effects of social context on the emergence of these standards. However, Bron- fenbrenner's (1989) ecological theory and the social cognitive perspectives of Bandura (1986) and Dodge (Crick & Dodge, 1994; Dodge, 1986) point to the salience of contextual pro- cesses when studying development. In addition, although studies of relationship education using a pretest/posttest design necessarily control for pretest scores in their analyses, few stud- ies consider the possibility that pretest scores may influence the effectiveness of relationship education on an individual and social context level. Kerpelman et al., (2010) is an exception but addresses only the individual level. They found that individuals with the lowest pretest scores on conflict-management skills were the most positively influenced by the curriculum. Therefore, this study aims to test a curriculum effect on two areas of adolescents' relationship standards at posttest, while considering the role of the classroom social context and controlling for participants' standards at pretest as well as demographic characteristics (i.e., age, race, and gender).

The Contents and Function of Partners/Relationships Standards

Researchers have long studied the desirable or "ideal" characteristics of romantic partners and relationships (e.g., Hill, 1945), and a great volume of work has emerged in this area. How- ever, studies differ in the numbers and types of items they include as well as the dimensions they assess (Buss & Barnes, 1986; Goodwin & Tang, 1991; Simpson & Gangestad, 1992). For example, Simpson and Gangestad (1992) found two dimensions (attractiveness/social visibility and relationship closeness/intimacy) using 15 items; Goodwin and Tang (1991) found three dimensions (kindness/consideration, extraver- sion, and sensitivity) using a different set of 15 items; and Buss and Barnes (1986) reported nine dimensions (kindness/consideration, socially exciting, artistic/intelligent, religious, domestic, professional status, likes children, politically conservative, and easygoing/adaptable) using 76 items.

Although these studies used adult samples, Fletcher et al. (1999) focused a series of stud- ies on youth (undergraduate students) at the University of Canterbury and produced reliable measures of partner/relationship standards. Their studies revealed three dimensions that individuals consider ideal for romantic partners (warmth/trustworthiness, vitality/attractiveness, and status/resources) and two that people tend to consider ideal for relationships (intimacy/loyalty and passion). The warmth/trustworthiness dimension represents individual attributes that affect the quality of intimate relationships (e.g., supportive, sensitive, honest, trustwor- thy, communicative, and affectionate). The vitality/attractiveness dimension includes char- acteristics reflecting the perceived attractiveness and vigor of the prospective partner (e.g., nice body, sexy, good sense of humor, and attrac- tive). Finally, the status/resources dimension assesses markers of the partner's social status (e.g., good job, financially secure, well dressed, appropriate age, and successful). …

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