The Past Is Present: Representations of Parents, Friends, and Romantic Partners Predict Subsequent Romantic Representations

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


This study examined how representations of parent–child relationships, friendships, and past romantic relationships are related to subsequent romantic representations. Two‐hundred 10th graders (100 female; Mage = 15.87 years) from diverse neighborhoods in a Western U.S. city were administered questionnaires and were interviewed to assess avoidant and anxious representations of their relationships with parents, friends, and romantic partners. Participants then completed similar questionnaires and interviews about their romantic representations six more times over the next 7.5 years. Growth curve analyses revealed that representations of relationships with parents, friends, and romantic partners each uniquely predicted subsequent romantic representations across development. Consistent with attachment and behavioral systems theory, representations of romantic relationships are revised by representations and experiences in other relationships.

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