This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Parental Processes and Young Adults' Romantic Relationships in Traditional, Divorced, and Remarried Family Structures




Pflieger, Jacqueline

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of parental figures on young adults’ romantic relationships in traditional two-parent, divorced/separated, and remarried family structures. Participants (n = 786) were recruited from a large university located in the southeastern region of the United States. Young adults completed self-reported questionnaires assessing their perceptions of parental relationship quality on indicators of affection, independence, and support for biological mothers, biological fathers, and if applicable, for stepmothers and stepfathers. Young adults also rated their romantic relationships on indicators of trust, intimacy, avoidance, and anxiety. Results found that parental figures continued to influence children during young adulthood through their romantic relationships. Specifically, young adults perceived relationships with biological mothers as higher on affection and support than relationships with biological fathers. Dimensions of relationship quality with biological mothers and biological fathers were associated with young adults’ romantic outcomes in similar ways; however, fathers exerted a stronger influence on young adults’ reports of trust and anxiety, and biological mothers had a stronger effect on young adults’ romantic intimacy. Further, young adults perceived relationships with biological fathers as more positive in traditional two-parent families as compared with both divorced/separated and remarried groups, although no differences were found for young adults’ romantic outcomes based on family structure. Finally, in remarried families, perceptions of relationships with biological parents were not related to young adults’ reports of romantic competence. However, stepfathers’ affection and independence-granting behaviors were related to less avoidance and greater intimacy in young adults’ romantic relationships. Clearly, father figures more strongly influenced young adults’ romantic relationships, with biological father-young adult relationships associated with trust and anxiety, and stepfather-young adult relationships associated with intimacy and avoidance.