Objective: We explored emerging adults’ beliefs about their ability to end romantic relationships (i.e., breakup beliefs) and identified demographic, personality, and romantic experience factors associated with breakup beliefs.

Background: Emerging adulthood typically involves forming and dissolving multiple romantic unions. Thus, ending relationships is a key component of emerging adult romantic development.

Method: 948 emerging adults, recruited from Qualtrics Panel Services, participated in a cross-sectional study of romantic experiences and health outcomes.

Results: Most participants perceive they are able to carry out breakup related tasks. Most participants reported knowing when to break up, being able to do so appropriately, being able to accept it when someone breaks up with them, and not delaying breaking up. However, a sizable proportion of participants (23.5% to 47.1% depending upon the item) reported that they lacked the skills necessary to end romantic relationships. Beliefs about the ability to end relationships were most consistently associated with emerging adults’ general self-efficacy.

Conclusions: Although most emerging adults in the sample appear confident in their abilities to break up, a sizeable minority of this sample may lack key skills to end relationships.

Implications: Relationship education programs for emerging adults generally do not focus on relationship dissolution. Yet, the findings from this study suggest that some emerging adults may need opportunities to build skills that will help them exit relationships that are unhealthy, unsatisfying, or out of sync with their individual goals.


Human Development and Family Studies

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Family Relations



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This is a preprint of an article published by Wiley in Family Relations, in 2019, available online: