Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 949–962 | Cite as

Plenty of Fish in the Ocean: How do Traits Reflecting Resiliency Moderate Adjustment After Experiencing a Romantic Breakup in Emerging Adulthood?

  • Lucia F. O’SullivanEmail author
  • Kathleen Hughes
  • France Talbot
  • Rice Fuller
Empirical Research


Breakups are common but often one of the most distressing experiences that young people can have. Poor adjustment to relationship loss is linked to depressive symptoms and rumination. This study assessed traits that reflect resiliency and that might comprise protective factors that ameliorate depressive symptoms and rumination. Online survey participants included 866 male and female late adolescents (18–22 years; Mean age = 20.7; 62% female; 82% White/Caucasian; 7% Asian/Southeast Asian; 6% Black/African American) who recently had experienced the breakup of a romantic relationship. Analyses assessed whether optimism, grit, and self-esteem moderated the breakup-adjustment relationship. After controlling for gender and current relationship status, higher optimism, self-esteem, and grit were expected to be associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms and rumination for those who had experienced a breakup in the three months prior to the study, and for the most part, these predictions were confirmed. These findings can be reinforced in education and counseling programs to better support individuals suffering the aftermath of a breakup. The findings add to the literature on adolescents’ development of interpersonal functioning and skills required in intimate relationships.


Breakups Depression Rumination Resiliency Optimism Grit 



The authors would like to thank David A. Clark, PhD for help with aspects of the design and for compiling the surveys, Mary Byers for coordinating data collection, and Lauren Cormier for help formatting the manuscript.

Authors’ Contributions

L.O. participated in the design of the study, preparation of materials, coordinated data collection, and drafted the manuscript. F.T. participated in the design, helped in the preparation of materials, and edited the manuscript. R.F. conceived of the study, participated in its design, and edited the manuscript. K.H. coordinated the data sets, performed the statistical analyses, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was funded by the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation awarded to the first author (L.O.).

Data Sharing and Declaration

All data generated and/or analyzed during the current study are included in this published article. The datasets are available from the authors upon reasonable request.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study was approved in full by the University of New Brunswick’s Research Ethics Board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.


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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Université de MonctonMonctonCanada

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