Relational Competence in Emerging Adult Adoptees: Conceptualizing Competence in Close Relationships

  • Krystal K. CashenEmail author
  • Harold D. Grotevant


Little research has focused on the positive adjustment of emerging adult adoptees (Palacios and Brodzinsky in Int J Behav Dev 34:270–284, 2010). Given the developmental context of emerging adulthood (Arnett in Am Psychol 55:469–482, 2000), it is important to select an indicator of adjustment that reflects the associated ambiguity. The present study aims to provide empirical support for the construct of relational competence, or competence in one’s closest relationship regardless of relationship type (i.e., romantic vs. nonromantic) among emerging adult adoptees. Participants included 162 adoptees who had been adopted before the age of one in the United States through private domestic adoption in to same-race families. Relational competence was measured by adapting a measure of romantic competence in emerging adulthood (Shulman et al. in J Adolesc 34:397–406, 2011). Indicators of relational competence were coded from interviews in which participants discussed their self-identified closest relationship (White et al. in J Personality Soc Psychol 50:152–162, 1986). Confirmatory factor analyses showed that the proposed model of relational competence was a good fit to the data and was invariant across relationship type and gender. No differences in relational competence scores were found by relationship type or by gender (all p’s > .552). Relational competence was positively associated with adaptive functioning (β = 0.325, p = .006) and negatively associated with internalizing (β = − 0.246, p = .035) and externalizing behavior (β = − 0.347, p = .003).


Close relationships Friendships Romantic relationships Competence Adoption 



Special thanks to the participants in this study and to Dr. David Scherer, Dr. Paula Pietromonaco, and the Rudd Adoption Research Lab for their consultation on this study.


Funding for the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project has come from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01-HD-028296, R01-HD-049859), National Science Foundation (BCS-0443590), the William T. Grant Foundation (7146), and the Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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