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Friendships;Parent Child Relationships;Romantic Relationships;Social Network Approval and Disapproval


Julie Hakim-Larson



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Romantic relationships occur in the context of family and friend relationships and in the context of the greater culture. Studies using a variety of methods have found that young adults are more likely to be interested in a romantic partner, have longer relationships, and have more satisfying and more loving relationships when their parents and friends approve of their romantic relationship (e.g., Parks et al., 1983 Le et al., 2010; Sinclair & Ellithorpe, 2014). Evolutionary psychology provides motives for parents and friends to form opinions and attempt to influence romantic relationships (Trivers, 1974). Developmentally, emerging and young adults navigate changing relationships with increasing importance on romantic relationships within the context of parent and friend relationships (Arnett, 2000; Erikson, 1963). The primary purpose of this study was to examine the importance that young adults place on the approval and disapproval of their parents and friends with consideration given to other potentially relevant variables (e.g., self-construal, acculturation, and social support). Two-hundred and thirty-eight participants (18-39 years old) responded online to qualitative and quantitative questions regarding their relationships. Analysis with a subsample of participants involved in romantic relationships at the time of the present study (n = 142) reiterated past research such that positive parent and friend opinion of the relationship was associated with more loving relationships. Social support from parents and friends was associated with greater importance given to parent and friend disapproval of a romantic relationship, respectively. Higher interdependent self-construal was also associated with greater importance given to parent disapproval. Acculturation was not associated with the importance placed on parent and friend approval/disapproval. Themes from conflicts with parents and friends related to romantic relationships were also identified and discussed. Frequency, but not severity, of relevant conflicts with parents was associated with the parent and the participant reports of fewer shared ideal characteristics for a romantic partner. These results have scholarly implications for understanding how parent and friend relationships impact romantic relationships within the context of cultural values. The current study provides initial support for a new measure, the Parent and Friend Influence on Romantic Relationship Decisions (PFI; Thompson, 2022a). Recommended next steps include further modification and validation of the PFI. In addition, future research on parent and friend approval/disapproval importance within the context of specific ethnic or cultural groups would likely benefit from including other potentially relevant variables such as religiosity and ethnicity of friends.

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