child development

Parents Can Help Prepare Kids to Have Healthier, Less Violent Relationships

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It’s no surprise that what we model for our kids in early childhood has an effect on their adult lives. We instill in our children the values and behaviors we believe and hope will make them kind, well-rounded, successful adults. This is never more apparent than when it comes to relationships. As parents, we lay the groundwork for our children’s future relationships. A new study suggests that parents may be able to help their kids have healthier relationships when they grow up.

A healthy, positive family dynamic can help kids build and maintain healthier relationships in adulthood.

Results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The study, says Penn State graduate student Mengya Xia, highlights the importance of healthy familial relationships and their long-term impact on adult romantic relationships. Researchers found that children who grew up in homes with a positive family dynamic were more likely to have healthier romantic relationships. The positive family climate provided kids with better problem-solving and coping skills. It also led to fewer violent romantic relationships as young adults.

Researchers recruited 974 adolescents to participate in the study. The participants answered questions about their families at three different points in the study, between sixth and ninth grade.

The adolescents reported information on their family climate. For example, they were asked how well they got along, if they felt supported, and about their parent’s disciplinary strategies. They were also asked if they had positive interactions with their parents. Once the participants reached young adulthood (average age 19.5 years), they were asked about their romantic relationships. Researchers asked them about their feelings of love for their partner and how they constructively solved problems in the relationship. They were also asked if they were ever violent with their partner (both physically and verbally).

The data showed that kids who grew up in a more positive family climate fared better in relationships as young adults.

Says Xia, “I think it was very interesting that we found that positive engagement with parents in adolescence was linked with romantic love in early adulthood. 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.”

Researchers also found that more cohesive family climates and more effective parenting during adolescence were associated with a lower risk of dating violence. When adolescents experience more conflict in their family and home, they are less likely to learn positive problem-solving skills or engage in affection.

Early childhood and adolescence have a major impact on our kids’ abilities to grow up and form healthier relationships. We all know, kids do as we do, not just as we say. So modeling the right behavior from the beginning will set them off on the right foot.

(Image: iStock/Chalabala)