The romantic relationships we have when we’re young can seriously impact the rest of our lives. Although research has found that young adults who had fewer romantic relationships tended to have less problems with psychosocial adjustment later in life, a recent study has revealed that it’s not exactly the number of relationships one has but rather the quality of relationships that has the largest influence.

According to a recent study, adults who experienced several romantic relationships during their adolescence are more likely to deal with anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse later in life than those with less active romantic lives. In order to understand just where this link between young romance and psychological damage stems, a team of researchers from the University of Denver studied the romantic relationships and psychological functionality of 100 male and 100 female tenth-graders over the course of nine years. According to a press release, the high-schoolers were from predominantly middle to upper class neighborhoods and ranged in racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Over the course of the study, the students were repeatedly observed to see if they showed any signs of psychological distress, such as anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, aggression, delinquent behavior, or impulsivity. The team also observed how much support was offered in teens’ romantic relationships. For example, it was noted whether or not their romantic partners offered companionship and encouragement during the course of the relationship. All this information was used to evaluate how relationships during youth affected individuals' psychosocial adjustment later in life. The similar trend was repeatedly observed.

"We found that relationships that were more supportive and satisfying, and those that had fewer negative interactions were associated with better psychosocial adjustment, above and beyond the effects of simply being in a relationship," co-author Charlene Collibee, explained in a statement.

Based on these results, it would seem that the number of relationships an individual has in their youth is not nearly as important as the quality of these relationships when it comes to influencing their psychological development throughout the rest of their lives.

The findings also emphasize the fact that not all young relationships are the same and parents and caretakers should not be so quick to discourage adolescents from entering into relationships without understanding the inner workings. In fact, the researchers even suggest that “promoting high-quality romantic relationships in adolescence, and especially young adulthood, may foster more positive psychosocial development.”

A study released earlier this year found that exercising too much control over your child’s personal life, such as forbidding them from dating before a specific age, has also been associated with weaker parent/child relationships, suggesting yet another reason why it may be better for parents to take a more hands-off approach to their teen’s romantic life.

“We found that mothers who supported their children's autonomy were regarded more positively by their children than mothers who were highly directive,” Jean Ispa, co-author in an unrelated study on the subject, explained in a statement.

Source: Collibee C, Furman W. Quality Counts: Developmental Shifts in Associations Between Romantic Relationship Qualities and Psychosocial Adjustment. Children Development. 2015.

Ispa J, Carlo G, Palermo F, Su-Russell C, Harmeyer E, Streit C. Middle Childhood Feelings Toward Mothers: Predictions From Maternal Directiveness at the Age of Two and Respect for Autonomy Currently. Social Development. 2015.