This Valentine’s Day, whether you’re single and ready to mingle, or in it to win it, your relationship status may have a lot to do with Mom and Dad. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, a higher quality of parent-teen relationships leads to a higher quality of romantic relationships for those grown children years later, possibly boosting the chances of finding true love.

The formation of romantic relationships has long been associated with the relationship between parents and their children, and the way in which the children were raised. Typically, people begin to form these intimate relationships in early adulthood, but the traits and qualities connected to intimacy derive from the type of attachment they had with their parents. An authoritative parenting style is believed to lead to a high quality relationship between parent and child, providing both equal amounts of warmth and demandingness. Typically, this type of parental relationship leads to healthy romantic relationships for young adults with qualities such as trust and closeness, according to an article in the Journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association.

Understanding the relationship between parent-child attachment serves as a mold that may predict children’s future close relationships such as friendships and romantic relationships. Although this is true, Psychology Today says the attachment style developed as a child — based on their relationship with a parent or early caretaker — doesn’t have to define the ways in which the child relates to those they love in their adult life. A simple self-reflection of attachment style can help uncover the ways in which one defends oneself from getting close and emotionally connected in intimate relationships. This will allow for both partners to challenge possible insecurities and fear possibly brought on by parent-child relationships.

To further examine the effects of parent-adolescent relationships on children’s future romantic life, a team of researchers at the University of Alberta, analyzed survey-based information from over 2,000 people, spanning ages 12 to 32, through three stages of life from adolescence to young adulthood. Participants currently in an intimate relationship were analyzed. The study not only sought to explore the link between parent-child relationship with young adults' intimate relationship quality, but also association between mental health and the transition to adulthood.

Parent-child relationships were measured based on answering questions on whether participants felt close to their mother or father and also if they felt satisfied with the way either parent communicated with them. The responses ranged from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much) for the first question, and 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) for the remaining items. The parents were also interviewed and responded to several items that assessed the parent’s relationship with their child from their perspective. “You make decisions about the adolescent's life together” were among the statements presented to parents with the same ranking system in place.

Depression symptoms were also measured in the study to analyze how they could affect the child’s transition into adulthood and their influence in romantic relationships. Participants indicated how often they had experienced symptoms, such as the following in the last seven days: “were bothered by things that normally don't bother you,” to “had trouble keeping your mind on what you were doing.” The participants' emotional states directly influenced their attitudes and beliefs in intimate relationships.

The findings revealed a higher parent-adolescent relationship quality predicted a higher transition to adulthood self-esteem and lower levels of depression systems. Parent–adolescent relationship quality predicted higher parent–young adult relationship quality and higher intimate relationship quality as a young adult. Although the researchers believe it may be a “small but important link between parent-adolescent relationship quality and intimate relationships 15 years later,” “the effects can be long-lasting,” according to the news release.

This study highlights people tend to compartmentalize their relationships, and fail to see the connection between family relations and romantic relationships. However, it is essential to recognize that interactions in early adulthood do play a role in future relationships. The authors of the study believe “…each person needs to take responsibility for their contribution to that dynamic."


Galambos NL, Johnson MD. Paths to Intimate Relationship Quality From Parent–Adolescent Relations and Mental Health. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2014.