Adolescent Romantic Relationships: Comfort with Intimacy, Parental Warmth and Support, and Exploration of Dating Partner Identity
Type of Degreethesis
Human Development and Family Studies
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Adolescent romantic relationships may have a significant and long-lasting impact on important developmental processes and outcomes. The goal of this study was to examine how parental warmth/ support and comfort with intimacy in romantic relationships are related to exploration of the dating partner identity during adolescence. Other factors known to influence identity and intimacy development during adolescence (i.e., parental marital status, dating experience, gender, and age) were also taken into account by examining their influence on relationship anxiety, relationship avoidance, and dating partner identity exploration. The current study was conducted using a sample of 882 adolescents ages 14-18 in public high schools throughout the state of Alabama. Results indicated that parental warmth/ support, romantic relationship anxiety, and romantic relationship avoidance were significantly related to dating partner identity exploration. However, parental warmth/support was significantly associated with romantic relationship anxiety but not with romantic relationship avoidance. Romantic relationship anxiety was not a mediator of the relationship between parental warmth/support and dating partner identity exploration. Therefore, relationships with parents and anxiety in romantic relationships each directly affect dating partner identity exploration during adolescence, influencing overall identity development. Analyses also indicated that gender was a moderator of the relationships among the variables, such that parental warmth/ support significantly predicted romantic relationship anxiety for females and not for males, whereas romantic relationship anxiety was more strongly linked with dating partner identity exploration for males than for females. Parental marital status did not moderate the associations among variables. Taken together, the results of this study are important because this study demonstrates that parental warmth/ support and comfort with intimacy have a significant influence on dating partner identity exploration in adolescent romantic relationships. Furthermore, other factors such as gender and parental marital status do appear to influence dating partner identity exploration during adolescence. Nonetheless, future research should examine associations among these factors, as well as the effects of factors affecting parental warmth and support and comfort with intimacy, in more detail in order to gain a clearer picture of how adolescents go about exploring the dating partner identity within romantic relationships.