Kids Learn How to Have Healthy Relationships From Parents
According to a new study, good parenting strategies such as providing reasons for decisions and refraining from severe punishments is linked to healthier romantic relationships for children later in young adulthood. This suggests teens imbibe and apply, in their personal lives, skills modeled by parents.
Specifically, a warm, positive, warm relationship between teenager and parent was linked to teens demonstrating better problem-solving skills within their relationships and being less likely to resort to violence to resolve conflict, noted the study, published 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,” explains Mengya Xia, a graduate student at Penn State University and one of the study’s authors. “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.”
Xia’s study builds on previous research that has found when adolescents are capable of forming and maintaining healthy relationships, they are more likely to live satisfied lives and eventually become good parents themselves. After studying nearly 1000 adolescents over three years, the latest study helps explain why and how.
Once a year, between the sixth and ninth grades, participants reported on their individual parent-child relationship: whether they and their parents got along and supported each other, or fought often; how consistently and harshly parents disciplined them; how assertive participants were; and if they had positive interactions with their parents.
When these participants reached an average age of 19.5 years, the researchers inquired about their romantic relationships. They were asked about their feelings of love for their partners, whether they solved relationship problems constructively and whether they were ever violent with their partner, either physically or verbally.
The researchers discovered a link between open, positive parenting during adolescence and later adequacy in problem-solving in adult romantic relationships. Furthermore, kids who experienced a healthy, warm connection with their parents reported to feel more love and connection in adulthood.
“I think it was very interesting that we found that positive engagement with parents in adolescence was linked with romantic love in early adulthood,” adds Xia. “And this is important because love is the foundation for romantic relationships, it’s the core component. And if you have a predictor for that, it may open up ways to help adolescents to form the ability to love in romantic relationships.”
Researchers also concluded that effective parenting during adolescence resulted in less risk of relationship violence in young adulthood.
“Adolescents from families that are less cohesive and more conflictual may be less likely to learn positive-problem solving strategies or engage in family interaction affectionately,” Xia says. “So in their romantic relationships, they are also less likely to be affectionate and more likely to use destructive strategies when they encounter problems, like violence.”
The research also recasts parent-teenager conflict as a way for teens to hone their problem-solving skills. Specifically, the team concluded that assertiveness is a quality worth encouraging in teens.
“In the study, we saw kids who were more assertive had better problem-solving skills in their later relationships, which is so important,” concludes Xia. “If you can’t solve a problem constructively, you may turn to negative strategies, which could include violence. So I think it’s important to promote constructive problem solving as a way to avoid or diminish the possibility of someone resorting to destructive strategies in a relationship.”