This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Romantic Relationship Trajectories: A Qualitative Analysis of Young Adults Exposed to Marital Violence




Carlson, Camille

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


Guided by a review of the literature on the theory of intergenerational transmission of violence (ITV) and Johnson’s typology of violence, the current study qualitatively examined 25 young adults’ romantic relationship experiences during high school (HS) and college. Findings are partially consistent with ITV, but suggest that the relationship between DV exposure and later romantic relationship experiences is complex, as roughly half of the participants experienced dating violence during HS, but none reported dating violence in college. DV exposure, as well as other familial factors (e.g., family rules and boundaries) seemingly influenced DV-exposed young adults’ romantic relationship experiences over time, including their desire or lack of desire to enter into relationships, their choice of romantic partner, the type of relationship they experience (e.g., abusive, non-abusive), and relationship dissolution. Participants compared their partner and romantic relationship to their fathers’ abusive behaviors and parents’ marriage and compared their own behaviors to that of their father and mother to manage their relationship involvement. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed in light of ITV and DV exposure literatures, emphasizing the heterogeneity in DV-exposed young adults’ relationship experiences.