Early Family Experience Affects Later Romantic Relationships

Learning how to form and sustain happy and healthy romantic relationships is a key skill for young adults. Such relationships are based on feelings of love, effective problem-solving, and the absence of physical and verbal violence. The ability to develop a healthy relationship can be influenced by the experiences people have had within their own families. However, the ways in which the family environment influences interpersonal skills and romantic relationships aren’t well understood.

A team of researchers led by Penn State graduate student Mengya Xia set out to explore how interpersonal skills and family factors affect romantic relationships. They examined data from a long-term study on preventing substance use among more than 10,000 youths in rural and semi-rural communities in Pennsylvania and Iowa. A randomly selected set of nearly 2,000 participated in a later follow-up project when they were young adults. For this analysis, the team included the 974 participants between 18 and 21 years old who were in a steady romantic relationship. The study was supported by NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The results were published in the July 2018 issue of Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

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