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The Cultural and Familial Contexts of Young Adults’ Romantic Relationships


The current study examined the associations of perceived maternal and paternal opinions of young adults’ romantic relationships with romantic relationship quality and parent-child relationship satisfaction and closeness. Associations were examined by gender, ethnic group membership, and intercultural relationship status. The study additionally considered young adults’ perceptions of reasons for parental approval and disapproval of their romantic relationships. Participants (N = 588) were young adults of Asian, Latino, and European background. Participants reported on the degree to which their mothers and fathers approved of their romantic relationships as well the reasons for their parents’ approval or disapproval of their romantic relationships. Participants also reported on their relationship quality with their romantic partners as well as their relationship satisfaction with and feelings of closeness to their mothers and fathers.

Findings indicated that perceptions of both maternal and paternal romantic relationship approval were significantly associated with (a) higher ratings of romantic relationship quality and (b) higher ratings of relationship satisfaction with parents and closeness to parents. Neither gender nor intercultural relationship status moderated these associations. However, ethnic group membership moderated the association of maternal opinion with relationship satisfaction with mothers such that the association was stronger for European background participants as compared to Asian and Latino background participants. Further, findings indicated that young adults frequently cited characteristics of their romantic partners as reasons for parental approval and disapproval. Results highlight similarities across ethnic groups in associations of parental approval of relationships with romantic relationship quality as well as ethnic variations in associations with mother-child relationship satisfaction. Additionally, results provide support for similarities in associations among young adults in intercultural and same-culture relationships within and across ethnic groups.

The current study considers romantic relationships through the perspective of cultural and familial contexts. Findings extend the current literature by drawing connections between the separate literatures on ecological systems theory, social network opinions of close others’ relationships, cultural variations in interdependent and independent contexts, and intergroup romantic relationships. Given the centrality of romantic relationships and family relationships in the lives of young adults, and the importance of social relationships for health and well-being, the present study has implications for the broader picture of how diverse family relationships and romantic relationships become integrated.

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