Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 14, Issue 1–2, pp 53–63 | Cite as

Adolescents in Transition to Adulthood: Parental Support, Relationship Satisfaction, and Post-transition Adjustment

  • Mary J. LevittEmail author
  • Marcia E. Silver
  • Jennifer D. Santos


The transition from high school is a pivotal period for intergenerational relations, as the asymmetry characterizing pre-transition relations with parents is reconfigured. Changes in adolescent–parent relations across this transition have potentially important implications for post-transition adjustment. A prospective study was conducted with an ethnically diverse sample that included adolescents who were not college-bound. Maternal, but not paternal, relations improved across the transition from high school to adult life. Changes in support from both mothers and fathers were associated with changes in relationship satisfaction and changes in satisfaction predicted post-transition adjustment. The results verify the importance of parental support to the quality of relational bonds between young adults and their parents. They also affirm the significance of these bonds for post-transition adjustment.


Adolescent Parent Transition Support Adjustment 



This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the American Psychological Association. The research is based, in part, on a dissertation submitted by Marcia Silver to the Department of Psychology, Florida International University. We wish to thank the project participants and all of the graduate and undergraduate assistants affiliated with the Social Transition Project research group. In particular, we thank Renyale Cotton, Edel Miedes, Lois Perdue, and Maryanne Stooksbury for the many hours they devoted to the project, and Jonathan Lane and Eugenia Perez for their helpful comments on the manuscript.


  1. Antonucci, T. C. (1986). Measuring social support networks: Hierarchical mapping technique. Generations, Summer, 10–12.Google Scholar
  2. Aquilino, W. S. (1994). Impact of childhood family disruption on young adults’ relationships with parents. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 295–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aquilino, W. S. (1997). From adolescent to young adult: A prospective study of parent-child relations during the transition to adulthood. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59, 670–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aseltine, R. H., Jr., & Gore, S. (1993). Mental health and social adaptation following the transition from high school. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 3, 247–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baltes, M. M., & Silverberg, S. B. (1994). The dynamics between dependency and autonomy: Illustrations across the life span. In: D. L. Featherman, P. B. Baltes, R. M. Lerner, & M. Perlmutter (Eds.), Life-span development and behavior (Vol. 12, pp. 41–90). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Bradburn, N. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, J., & Cohen, P. (1983). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  8. Compas, B. E., Wagner, B. M., Slavin, L. A., & Vannatta, K. (1986). A prospective study of life events, social support, and psychological symptomatology during the transition from high school to college. American Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 241–257.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dubois, D. L., Felner, R. D., Brand, S., Adan, A. M., & Evans, E. G. (1992). A prospective study of life stress, social support, and adaptation in early adolescence. Child Development, 63, 542–557.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dubow, E. F., Tisak, J., Causey, D., Hryshko, A., & Reid, G. (1991). A two-year longitudinal study of stressful life events, social support, and social problem solving skills: Contributions to children’s behavioral and academic adjustment. Child Development, 62, 583–599.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hollingshead, A. (1975). Four-factor index of social status. Unpublished manuscript, Yale University, New Haven, CT.Google Scholar
  12. Kahn, R. L., & Antonucci, T. C. (1980). Convoys over the life course: Attachment, roles, and social support. In P. B. Baltes, & O. G. Brim (Eds.), Life span development and behavior (Vol. 3, pp. 103–123). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  13. Kenny, M. (1990). College seniors’ perceptions of parental attachment: The value and stability of family ties. Journal of College Student Development, 31, 39–46.Google Scholar
  14. LeCroy, C. W. (1988). Parent-adolescent intimacy: Impact on adolescent functioning. Adolescence, 23, 137–147.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Levitt, M. J. (1991). Attachment and close relationships: A life span perspective. In J. L. Gewirtz, & W. M. Kurtines (Eds.), Intersections with attachment. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Levitt, M. J. (2005). Social relations in childhood and adolescence: The convoy model perspective. Human Development, 48, 28–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Levitt, M. J., Coffman, S., Guacci-Franco, N., & Loveless, S. C. (1994). Attachment relations and life transitions: An expectancy model. In M. B. Sperling, & W. H. Berman (Eds.), Attachment in adults: Clinical and developmental perspectives (pp. 232–255). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  18. Levitt, M. J., Guacci, N., & Weber, R. A. (1992). Intergenerational support, relationship quality, and well-being: A bicultural analysis. Journal of Family Issues, 13, 465–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mancini, J. A., & Bleisner, R. (1989). Aging parents and adult children: Research themes on intergenerational relations. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 51, 275–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mayseless, O., Wiseman, H., & Hai, I. (1998). Adolescents’ relationships with father, mother, and same-gender friend. Journal of Adolescent Research, 13, 101–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Moore, D. (1987). Parent-adolescent separation: The construction of adulthood by late adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 23, 298–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Noack, P., & Puschner, B. (1999). Differential trajectories of parent-child relationship and psychosocial adjustment in adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 795–804.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. O’Connor, T. G., Allen, J. P., Bell, K. L., & Hauser, S. T. (1996). Adolescent-parent relationships and leaving home in young adulthood. In J. A. Graber, & J. S. Dubas (Eds.), Understanding the transition to adulthood. New Directions for Child Development, No. 71 (pp. 39–52). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  24. Pipp, S., Shaver, P., Jennings, S., Lamborn, S., & Fischer, K. (1985). Adolescents’ theories about the development of their relationships with parents. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 991–1001.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pratt, M. W. (2000). The transition to university: Contexts, connections, and consequences. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15, 5–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rice, K. G., & Mulkeen, P. (1995). Relationships with parents and peers: A longitudinal study of adolescent intimacy. Journal of Adolescent Research, 10, 338–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ribisl, K. M., Walton, M. A., Mowbray, C. T., Luke, D. A., Davidson, W. S., & Bootsmiller, B. J. (1996). Minimizing participant attrition in panel studies through the use of effective retention and tracking strategies: Review and recommendations. Evaluation and Program Planning, 19, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Rossi, A. S., & Rossi, P. H. (1990). Of human bonding: Parent-child relations across the life course. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  30. Russell, D. W., & Cutrona, C. E. (1988). Development and evolution of the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Unpublished manuscript, Center for Health Services Research, College of Medicine, University of Iowa.Google Scholar
  31. Russell, D. W., Peplau, L. A., & Cutrona, C. E. (1980). The revised UCLA loneliness scale: Concurrent and discriminant validity evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 41–53.Google Scholar
  32. Russell, A., & Saebel, J. (1997). Mother-son, mother-daughter, father-son, and father-daughter: Are they distinct relationships? Developmental Review, 17, 111–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ryan, R. M., & Lynch, J. H. (1989). Emotional autonomy versus detachment: Revisiting the vicissitudes of adolescence and young adulthood. Child Development, 60, 340–356.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shaver, P. R., Furman, W., & Buhrmester, D. (1985). Transition to college: Network changes, social skills, and loneliness. In S. Duck, & D. Perlman (Eds.), Understanding personal relationships (pp. 193–219). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Shulman, S., & Ben-Artzi, E. (2003). Age-related differences in the transition from adolescence to adulthood and links with family relationships. Journal of Adult Development, 10, 217–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smetana, J. G., Metzger, A., & Campione-Barr, N. (2004). African-American late adolescents’ relationships with parents: Developmental transitions and longitudinal patterns. Child Development, 75, 932–947.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Smollar, J., & Youniss, J. (1989). Transformations in adolescents’ perceptions of parents. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 12, 71–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sullivan, K., & Sullivan, A. (1980). Adolescent-parent separation. Developmental Psychology, 16, 93–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wintre, M. G., & Yaffe, M. (2000). First-year students’ adjustment to university life as a function of relationships with parents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15, 9–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. W. T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship. (1988). The forgotten half: Non-college youth in America. Washington, DC.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary J. Levitt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marcia E. Silver
    • 2
  • Jennifer D. Santos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida International UniversityNorth MiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNova Southeastern UniversityFort LauderdaleUSA

Personalised recommendations