Late adolescent girls' relationships with parents and romantic partner: The distinct role of mothers and fathers

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The distinct role of mothers and fathers in shaping the quality of relationships with romantic partner was explored. One hundred and twenty 17-year old girls were observed during their senior year in high school with each of their parents during a Revealed differences task [Allen, J. P., Hauser, S. T., Bell, K. L., Boykin, K. A., & Tate, D. C. (1994). Autonomy and relatedness coding system manual, version 2.01. Unpublished manual] and filled out questionnaires pertaining to their relationships with romantic partners. A year and a half later (7 months after conscription to compulsory military service) they again filled out questionnaires. Whereas self-reports did not distinguish between relations with mothers and fathers observational data revealed that relationships with each parent are associated with somewhat different aspects of the romantic relationship. Better quality of relationship with mother was associated with delays in the girl's entrance into sexual romantic relationships, and with better quality of romantic relationship concurrently whereas better quality of relationship with father was associated with better quality of romantic relationship once they are formed concurrently and longitudinally. The findings highlight the central role that mothers and fathers play in shaping the quality of the romantic relationships that late adolescent girls form and underscore the importance of using observational data as well as questionnaire data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-855
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank a very dedicated group of research assistants for conducting the observations and analyzing the interactions. This study was supported by grant awarded to the two authors and Kathy Bell by the US-Israeli Binational Science Foundation. Finally, we wish to thank the families who participated in this study and allowed us a glimpse into their private worlds.


  • Autonomy and relatedness
  • Fathers
  • Mothers
  • Parent-adolescent relationships
  • Romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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