Bases for a developmental approach to the nature and functions of mother-child and father-child relationships are considered in connection with research findings from studies of middle-childhood and adolescent subjects and their parents. The framework for the review was derived from two sources: (1) recent conceptualizations of close relationships and (2) implications in general theories of socialization regarding different contributions of mothers and fathers to development during middle childhood and adolescence. Relationships between offspring and their mothers were found to contrast with father-offspring relationships in both middle childhood and adolescence, and differences appear to become more pronounced in some areas as a function of maturational changes associated with the transition to adolescence. The analysis points to the inadvisability of considering relationships with parents to be monolithic and a-developmental. In addition, it makes clear the need for a developmental theory of relationships to serve as a guide to further research on the linkages between ontogenetic change in individuals and the relationships of which they are a part.