Important decisions about romantic relationships are often made during adulthood, but the foundations for healthy relationships begin during childhood. Romantic development is related to experiences in the family of origin such as parenting, parents’ romantic history, and patterns of interaction within families. In order to better understand how this process unfolds into adulthood, we used relationship history interviews from 35 young adults (ages 24–40) to explore the mechanisms through which parents influence their children’s romantic development. We used Applied Thematic Analysis to guide our secondary analysis of relationship histories data. The findings suggest adult children internalize and apply the examples of parents whom they perceive to be good role models. When parents are seen as poor role models, young adults engage in trial and error as they look for partners that will help them avoid their parents’ mistakes and/or they commit to a partner at a young age to form a family of their own. Adult children also seek love, affirmation, and support from their romantic partners when they feel those things were lacking from their parents. We explore implications of these findings for future research on romantic development.


Family Studies

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Journal of Social and Personal Relationships



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© The Author(s) 2020.


This is a preprint of an article published by Sage in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2021, the Version of Record is available online: