Performance Improvement 2008. What Does Past Research Say Regarding How Children's Experiences and Biology Affect Their Attitudes and Decisions about Marriage?


This study synthesized research findings about trends, behaviors and attitudes with regard to relationship development among youth and young adults. The study focused on low-income groups, and the implications of their attitudes and behaviors for family formation decisions later in life. The study examined research findings, theory, and evidence from evaluations and operational experience from programs designed to increase the knowledge and skills of youth and young adults, particularly low-income youth/young adults, regarding healthy relationships. If programs and curricula targeting adolescent romantic relationships are to be effective, they must be grounded in an accurate understanding of how these relationships function and the role that they play in the development of healthy adult marriages.

Analyses of the literature led the authors to recommend a comprehensive theoretical model that included all parts of the lifespan, focused on adolescent attitudes and behaviors as mediators, and took socio-economic status and associated covariates (e.g. neighborhood, educational opportunities) into account, both as antecedent conditions and as influences in adulthood. Promising directions for the next generation of research on adolescent romantic relationships include: 1) exploiting nationally representative data sets to expand descriptions of low-income adolescents; 2) addressing diversity across cultures, ethnicities, and sexual orientations; 3) continuing longitudinal studies that examine the consequences of adolescent experiences for adult outcomes; 4) conducting analyses that test genetic and economic explanations for links between adolescence and adulthood; 5) describing processes within adolescent relationships, like conflict resolution and social support.

Report Title: Adolescent Romantic Relationships as Precursors of Healthy Adult Marriages: A Review of Theory, Research, and Programs, Sponsor: ACF-OPRE, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Federal Contact: Nancye Campbell, 202-401-5760
Rand Corporation

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