Young adults’ perceptions of parents’ and other couple relationships and influences of these perceptions on their own romantic relationships: an exploratory study




Collardeau, Fanie

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Previous research has consistently demonstrated the “inter-generational transmission of divorce.” In comparison to the patterns seen in families with continuously married parents, young adults who experienced their parents’ divorce during childhood are more likely to consider leaving their own romantic partners, including spouses, when medium to low levels of satisfaction are felt. To contextualize under what circumstances and how young adults may be influenced by their perceptions of these family-of-origin dynamics, the present study explored young women’s narratives about their parents’ romantic relationships and another observable romantic relationship in their environment. These narratives included a general description of the romantic relationships, and queried perceptions of efforts invested by the parents in their relationship. Young women were also asked to clarify their expectations regarding how much effort is appropriate in romantic relationships. Twenty-two young women were interviewed and their narratives were analyzed using Charmaz (2006)’s grounded theory approach. Participants were active agents in the creation of meaning about their parents’ romantic relationship and their parents’ divorce. Their narratives were complex, sometimes paradoxical, and suggested participants understood some of the dynamics in their parents’ romantic relationships. The themes, which emerged from the perceptions of their parents’ romantic relationships, their parents’ mistakes and what they felt they have learned from witnessing their parents’ romantic relationships, provided several avenues of interest for future research and clinical practice.



romantic relationships, parental divorce, young adults, grounded theory