Research: Family Relationship Teaches Teens How To Have Healthy Relationships

Close up of cute teenage couple in love sharing a special moment. Romantic young man and woman outdoors in park.

When you look at your child you probably aren’t thinking about helping them have healthy, happy, long-term relationships as an adult, unless they’re a teen of course. Even then though, you might not be actively thinking about their future romance status as adults.

Well whether you’re thinking about it or not, you’re impacting it.

family relationship teaches teens how to love

New research supports that warm and nurturing parents, who explain decisions and refrain from harsh punishments, help kids to have better problem-solving skills and less-violent, romantic relationships as young adults.

The results, which were recently published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, showcased data 974 adolescents at three points in time between sixth and ninth grade. The participants answered several questions about their families and themselves, and findings indicate that early family relationships can have long-term effects on adult relationships.

The subjects involved reported their family climate (amount of support/conflict), their parents’ discipline strategies, how assertive they were and if they had positive relationships with their parents.

“During adolescence, you’re starting to figure out what you want in a relationship and to form the skills you need to have successful relationships,” said Mengya Xia, a graduate student in human development and family studies at Penn State, in an interview with Science Daily. “The family relationship is the first intimate relationship of your life, and you apply what you learn to later relationships.”

At about 19.5-years-old the researchers asked about romantic relationships. The participants then answered questions regarding their partners. They described whether they could problem-solve in the relationship and if they were ever verbally or physically violent.

“It’s (the family setting) also where you may learn how to constructively communicate — or perhaps the inverse, to yell and scream — when you have a disagreement,” Xia said to Science Daily. “Those are the skills you learn from the family and you will apply in later relationships.”

Citing the research Xia stated that it’s important for adolescents and young adults to learn how to form close relationships. It supports previous research that found when young adults can form and maintain healthy relationships they tend to be more satisfied in life and better parents themselves.

Additionally, the research found that kids who had more positive engagements with their parents during the adolescence felt more love and better connections in their adult relationships. And, they found that the more cohesive the family climate, coupled with effective parenting strategies during the teen years, was connected with having a lower risk of violence in young adult relationships.

“I think it was very interesting that we found that positive engagement with parents in adolescence was linked with romantic love in early adulthood,” Xia said in an interview with Science Daily. “And this is important because love is the foundation for romantic relationships, it’s the core component. And if you have a predictor for that, it may open up ways to help adolescents to form the ability to love in romantic relationships.

Adolescents from families that are less cohesive and more conflictual may be less likely to learn positive-problem solving strategies or engage in family interaction affectionately. So, in their romantic relationships, they are also less likely to be affectionate and more likely to use destructive strategies when they encounter problems, like violence.”

The study concluded that encouraging assertiveness would also later help kids have happier and healthier relationships.

“In the study, we saw kids who were more assertive had better problem-solving skills in their later relationships, which is so important,” Xia said in an interview with Science Daily. “If you can’t solve a problem constructively, you may turn to negative strategies, which could include violence. So, I think it’s important to promote constructive problem solving as a way to avoid or diminish the possibility of someone resorting to destructive strategies in a relationship.”

To see the study abstract, click here.

For more news and research, click here. 


  1. It’s always a good idea to keep in mind that no matter what we tell our kids about relationships, they see what we do and how we treat them and that has a bigger impact than words alone. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. This is such a great post! We have always tried to be happy in front of our son. Another interesting fact I found is in the first 3 years the child’s brain develops and starts to see patterns, so if they see a happy relationship it lays a good foundation for happy relationships.


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