In A Bad Relationship? New Study Says You Can Blame Your Parents

02/06/2014 07:55 pm ET | Updated Mar 11, 2014
  • Taryn Hillin Fmr. Associate Editor, Huffington Post Weddings and Divorce and current YA author / screenwriter and journalist.

Love life got you down? It might be time to take a look back on your teenage years. A new study says your relationship with your parents during adolescence has a profound effect on your romantic relationships later in life.

University of Alberta associate professor Matt Johnson and his team surveyed 2,970 people at three different stages in their lives. What they discovered was a direct link between participants’ relationship with their parents and the quality of their current love lives. (The study will be published in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family.)

Johnson and his team found that positive adolescent-parent relationships led to higher quality intimate relationships as adults. Teenagers who experienced rocky relationships with their parents had more romantic problems later in life.

This doesn’t mean that parents are completely to blame for their children’s poor love lives, Johnson told The Huffington Post. Instead, it's important for people to be aware of their own role in that fundamental relationship and recognize how it impacts their current romantic relationship.

"People tend to compartmentalize their relationships; they tend not to see the connection between one kind, such as family relations, and another, like couple unions. But understanding your contribution to the relationship with your parents would be important to recognizing any tendency to replicate behavior—positive or negative—in an intimate relationship."

The researchers found that those whose parental relationships fostered high self-esteem had more successful romantic relationships as well.

“Higher parent-adolescent relations predicted higher self-esteem over the college years, which was then linked with better intimate relations as a young adult,” Johnson told the Huffington Post.

Not all hope is lost for those with less-than-stellar relationships with mom and dad, however.

“Individuals with a particularly rocky relationship with their parents during adolescence are not destined to a poorer quality intimate relationship as young adults," the study explains. "Instead, a low-quality parent–adolescent relationship is associated with slightly reduced success in an intimate relationship.”

That's why it's important for people to identify past negative behavior patterns and avoid replicating them in their current and future relationships, the researchers say.

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