If you’re happily in love, Mom and Dad may have helped.
Teenagers’ relationships with their parents have a small but measurable impact on their romantic relationships up to 15 years later, according to researchers at the University of Alberta.
People who had a tumultuous relationship with Mom and Dad in their teens were more likely to face heartache down the road. And those who felt close to their parents during adolescence tended to feel more emotionally and physically satisfied in their adult romantic relationships.
The researchers drew their conclusions from data in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This study followed 3,000 Americans from middle and high school up until they were in their early 30s. The findings were published in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.
“When you think about the amount of life that happens between adolescence and somebody’s early 30s, there are a lot of transitions that you go through,” says Matt Johnson, an assistant professor of human ecology and the study’s lead author. “So to think that behaviors with your parents as a teenager will have some sort of measurable and meaningful impact on the behavior you have with an intimate partner years later in your early 30s is pretty surprising,” he tells Shots.
To isolate parental influence, researchers made adjustments for pre-existing depression and self-esteem issues that the participants had when they were younger. They also factored in demographic differences.
All told, the analysis found that about 8 percent of the variation in the quality of young adults’ romantic relationships could be explained by how they got along with their parents as teens.
To be sure, this study looked very broadly at satisfaction with romantic relationships and those between parents and teens. It couldn’t take everything into account.
And Johnson says people who had a rocky relationship with their family during their teen years needn’t despair. While parent-teen relationships play a role in future romantic relationships, a lot of other factors contribute to healthy relationships as well.
That said, teens and parents who find themselves clashing might do well to learn ways to make peace. “It can help prevent some problems that may occur in the future,” Johnson says.
And young adults might want to reflect on their relationships with parents. “You might uncover things that you did really well in that relationship,” Johnson says. Or you might realize that some of your high school habits are hindering your love life as a grownup.