The study examined how adolescent parent-child relationships mediate the impact of parental divorce on children’s later romantic relationships, particularly noting gender differences. Utilizing a 22-year longitudinal study, it found an indirect effect of parental divorce on daughters’ future relationships through their bonds with fathers, but not for sons. It emphasized the importance of positive parent-child relationships for the well-being of children’s future romantic endeavors and called for further research due to sample size limitations and the complex nature of family dynamics.

The study aimed to examine the role of parent-child relationships during adolescence as a mediator between parental divorce and children’s romantic relationships in emerging adulthood, focusing on how this mediation model differs based on the gender dyads of parent-child (e.g., father-daughter vs. mother-son). The research was based on a 22-year, 9-wave longitudinal study that began when participants were in the sixth grade. Analyses were conducted on data from waves 6 and 8 when participants were approximately in 12th grade and 24 years old, respectively.

The sample comprised 520 individuals from ‘always-married’ families and 154 from ‘divorced’ families. The study used Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) – LISREL Version 8.80 to test the mediation model for each female and male adolescent. The results indicated no overall direct mediation model; however, the mediation model worked differently for the four parent-child dyads. Notably, an indirect effect of parental divorce through relationships with fathers on daughters’ romantic relationships was found, but not for sons.

The study emphasized the importance of understanding the precursors or factors related to the positive qualities of committed romantic relationships (RR) in young adulthood, as these qualities have been found to predict both physical and psychological well-being. Parental divorce has been associated with children’s reduced commitment to RR, less competence, more infidelity and conflict, and higher instability in their RR.

The influence of parental divorce on parent-child relationships was found to potentially negatively affect parent-child relationships, which in turn might negatively influence children’s RR. Divorced parents, particularly mothers, often have difficulties in interactions with their children due to various adjustments post-divorce. Moreover, non-residential fathers might become more disengaged with children post-divorce, leading to lower qualities of mother as well as father-child relationships and parenting.

The study highlighted that deteriorated parent-child relationships could lead to negative qualities of children’s RR later. Parents play a significant role in teaching children how to interact and develop relationships with people, which shapes their relationships with romantic partners. The findings indicated that supportive and involved parenting during adolescence was related to more positive RR of children later, while negative experiences with parents showed more negative RR qualities.

The study also discussed the role of social learning theory and attachment theory in understanding the association between parent-child relationships and children’s committed RR qualities. It highlighted how children learn and apply behaviors from significant figures like parents to their RR. The study also considered the potential roles of the gender of parents and adolescent children in understanding the dynamics among parental divorce, parent-child relationships, and children’s RR.

In conclusion, the study found an indirect effect of parental divorce on daughters’ RR in young adulthood through father-daughter relationships in adolescence but not for sons. It also noted that the relationships with fathers and mothers were significantly related to the RR of both daughters and sons when the paths were equated. This suggests that the importance of relationships with fathers for RR qualities of both daughters and sons might be similar. The study called for further research considering the limitations of sample size and the need for a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics between parental divorce, parent-child relationships, and children’s RR.


Sun-A, L. (2019). Romantic relationships in young adulthood: Parental divorce, parent-child relationships during adolescence, and gender. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(2), 411-423. doi: