The capacity for romantic intimacy: Exploring the contribution of best friend and marital and parental relationships

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This study examined, in a longitudinal design, the contributions of three different relationships, namely marital, parent-child and best friend, to the capacity for intimacy in romantic relationships of Israeli male adolescents, as well as the mediating role of socio-emotional capacities. Eighty-four 17-year-old adolescents and their parents filled out questionnaires concerning the quality of these relational contexts. Four years later the Intimacy Status Interview was administered to the adolescents at the conclusion of their mandatory military service to examine closeness, separateness, and commitment within their romantic relationships. Results showed that all relational contexts were related to capacity for intimacy (directly or indirectly), with higher relational qualities associated with better capability for intimacy. The marital relationship was associated with intimacy through its effect on the parent-child relationships. The effects of the parent-child relationships on the capacity for intimacy were mediated through the adolescents' socio-emotional capabilities. The contribution of the parent-adolescent relationships to the capacity for closeness and commitment was further mediated through relationships with the best friend, whereas the contribution to the capacity for separateness was not. A substantial number of our participants showed high capability for intimacy although in the military service context the circumstances for the development of intimacy were quite limited and non-optimal. Exploration of the separateness and closeness facets of intimacy in romantic relationships in the two sexes and in other contexts is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-399
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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