Factors linking childhood experiences to adult romantic relationships among African Americans

Leslie Gordon Simons, Ronald L. Simons, Antoinette M. Landor, Chalandra M. Bryant, Steven R.H. Beach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


It is well known that a high-quality relationship with a romantic partner is related to a variety of positive outcomes associated with health and well-being. Establishing such relationships is an important developmental task for young adults, and past research indicates that there is a link between experiences in the family of origin and the success of later intimate relationships. It has been suggested that this association can be explained by the acquisition of social competencies (e.g., emotions, schemas, traits) that are acquired during childhood in the family of origin and, in turn, influence interaction with adult romantic partners. The current study builds on this foundation by identifying particular competencies expected to explain the association between childhood exposure to supportive and harsh parenting and later patterns of interaction with romantic partners. Specifically, we examine anger management, attachment style, hostile attribution bias, and self-control as potential mediators using prospective, longitudinal data from a sample of 345 African American young adults. Results from structural equation modeling indicate that each of the mediators in our study accounts for a significant portion of the effect of parenting on the quality of adult romantic relationships, although the constructs linking parenting to warm interactions with romantic partners are somewhat different from those that link parenting to hostile interactions with romantic partners. Even after accounting for the effect of the mediators, there is still a direct effect of parenting on both warm/loving and hostile/aggressive interactions with romantic partner. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-379
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood experiences
  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Parenting
  • Romantic relationships


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