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Parent and Romantic Partner Behaviors during Adolescence as Predictors of Young Adult Positive Personality, Relational Competence, and Functional Independence

Abstract

Experiences with parents and romantic partners during adolescence are theorized to have long-term effects on youth development. However, little research has empirically examined the relative contributions of experiences in each type of relationship at different points during adolescence to positive development in young adulthood. The goal of the present study was to predict relative changes in youth positive personality characteristics, relational competence, and functional independence during young adulthood from specific behaviors experienced from parents and romantic partners during early and late adolescence. A diverse community sample of 147 individuals (59 males, 88 females) from the southeastern United States was repeatedly assessed across a 14-year period from age 13 to age 27. As hypothesized, parental acceptance and successful parental positive influence behavior toward adolescents at age 13 predicted relative increases in positive personality traits (e.g., agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability) between ages 23 and 27. These same parental behaviors measured at age 18 were less robust predictors of key outcomes relative to similar qualities of romantic relationships. Instead, romantic behaviors of toleration and appreciation at age 18 predicted relative increases in functional independence and relational competence between ages 23 and 27 (e.g., attachment closeness, reliable alliance, nurturance, and functional independence). Results suggest that parents’ successful efforts to positively influence and accept their children during early adolescence may lay a foundation for future positive personality growth, and that similar positive behaviors experienced in late adolescent romantic relationships may help prepare youth to develop broader supportive social relationships and independence skills in young adulthood.

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Authors

Contributions

D.E.S. conceived of the study, performed the statistical analysis, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript; J.A.S. helped to draft the manuscript; J.K. helped to draft the manuscript; E.L. helped to draft the manuscript; J.P.A. participated in study design and coordination and interpretation of the data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

This study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health (5R37HD058305-23, R01HD058305-16A1, R01-MH58066).

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This manuscript’s data will not be deposited.

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Correspondence to David E. Szwedo.

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This study was conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association and the Institutional Review Board of the University of Virginia.

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Informed consent from the parents and informed assent from all participants were obtained before each interview session when the participant was under 18 years old. Later, informed consent was obtained directly from the participants after age 18.

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Szwedo, D.E., Stern, J.A., Kansky, J. et al. Parent and Romantic Partner Behaviors during Adolescence as Predictors of Young Adult Positive Personality, Relational Competence, and Functional Independence. J Youth Adolescence 51, 1926–1943 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-022-01641-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-022-01641-1

Keywords

  • Parenting
  • Romantic relationships
  • Personality
  • Social support
  • Independence