Objective: Our objective was to use multiple romantic relationship dimensions to identify a typology of emerging adult romantic relationships.

Background: Emerging adult romantic relationships vary in terms of their relational dynamics, emotional and physical intimacy, and commitment. Understanding the diversity in emerging adult romantic relationships is crucial for developing effective relationship education for emerging adults as they make decisions about their romantic partnerships.

Method: Using data from 396 romantically involved but unmarried emerging adults, we used cluster analysis to identify a typology of romantic relationships based on relational dynamics (i.e., warmth and support and negative interactions), relationship duration, consolidation (i.e., number of nights and percentage of free time spent together), and commitment (i.e., likelihood of marrying partner).

Results: The results indicated five types of relationships: (a) happily consolidated (30.8%), (b) happily independent (18.9%), (c) exploratory (17.9%), (d) stuck (23.0%), and (e) high intensity (9.3%). Demographic characteristics, depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, current cohabitation, and cycling within the current relationship varied between the relationship types.

Conclusions: There appear to be meaningful and important variations among the types of romantic relationships that emerging adults pursue. The associations between relationship type and well-being depends on the interplay between relational dynamics, consolidation, and commitment.

Implications: Individuals in different types of relationships may require targeted interventions to help them move out of problematic relationships or to help them build skills for developing and maintaining relationship quality. Suggestions for each type of relationship are provided.


Family Studies

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Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science



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© 2020 National Council on Family Relations


This is a preprint of an article published by Wiley in Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science in 2020, the Version of Record is available online: