*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on PsychCentral.
New research suggests nurturing parents pass along strategies that help their children build and maintain positive relationships in adulthood. Investigators discovered a supportive, compassionate family environment helps adolescents engage in healthier, less violent romantic relationships as young adults.
Moreover, learning to form close relationships is an important skill for adolescents and young adults to learn. Penn State investigators found that a positive family climate, including use of effective parenting strategies — like providing reasons for decisions and refraining from harsh punishments — improves a teen’s relationship problem-solving skills.
These skills are associated with less violent romantic relationships as young adults.
The findings provide insight on how early family relationships can have long-term impacts on young adult romantic relationships, said Mengya Xia, a graduate student in human development and family studies. Study results appear in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
“During adolescence, you’re starting to figure out what you want in a relationship and to form the skills you need to have successful relationships,” Xia said.
“The family relationship is the first intimate relationship of your life, and you apply what you learn to later relationships. It’s also where you may learn how to constructively communicate — or perhaps the inverse, to yell and scream — when you have a disagreement. Those are the skills you learn from the family and you will apply in later relationships.”
The researchers who hoped to learn more about how early family experiences affects later romantic relationships recruited 974 adolescents for the study.
At three points in time between sixth and ninth grade, the participants answered several questions about their families and themselves.
They reported their family climate (if they tend to get along and support each other or fight often), their parents’ discipline strategies (how consistent and harsh they were), how assertive they were, and if they had positive interactions with their parents.
When the participants reached young adulthood, at an average age of 19.5, the researchers asked them about their romantic relationships.
The researchers found that a positive family climate and effective parenting in adolescence were associated with better problem-solving skills in young adults’ romantic relationships.
Additionally, kids who had more positive engagement with their parents during adolescence reported feeling more love and connection in their young adult relationships.
The researchers also found that a more cohesive and organized family climate and more effective parenting during adolescence was associated with a lower risk of violence in young adult relationships.