How Individual Upbringing Affects Young Adult Romantic Relationships

Abstract: This paper dissected the influences of both successful and unsuccessful romantic relationships based on one’s upbringing. The information was gathered from multiple academic sources surrounding the topic of romantic relationships. The goal of this assignment was to answer a particular research question  in the style of a literature review. A minimum of five sources was required, which were used to construct the majority of the paper. 


This paper examines the ways in which environments during childhood and adolescent years influence interpersonal relationships. The study aims to answer the research question, How does an individual’s upbringing affect young adult romantic relationships? In this review, the goal is to define the idea of intimacy, explore reasons why relationships fail and succeed, and parenting styles and environments during childhood and adolescence. This paper will also dwell on the influences of personality during adolescence and how those personality traits impact romantic relationships. 


Campbell University lists twelve characteristics of a “Healthy, Functional Romantic Relationship.” Some of these categories include open communication, trust and support, physical attention, and intimacy. Open communication consists of “being able to express your feelings or opinions, knowing it is okay to disagree, saying what you mean and mean what you say”. Trust and support deals with support in all aspects —- emotional, physical, social, etc…—- and being physically and emotionally available for their partner, along with creating an atmosphere of transparency. Physical affection contains hand holding, hugging, kissing, with the of each other’s personal space and ability to say so (Karney, Beckette, Collins, Shaw, 2007).

All of the components stated previously fall under the overall idea of intimacy. According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology (n.d.), intimacy is defined as “an interpersonal state of extreme emotional closeness such that each party’s personal space can be entered by any of the other parties without causing discomfort to that person.” The definition continues in stating how intimacy requires the involved individuals to have a deep understanding of one another and contains love and usual affection. 

Many desire to have a healthy relationship but are unaware of how personal “baggage” can influence the productivity of that goal. They search different mediums for assistance in attaining this desire. “The.Holistic.Psychologist” on the Instagram social media platform, caters to the community of people who seek to come to terms with toxic behaviors and improve themselves and interactive methods in the hope of forming healthier relationships. She states attachments that were formed in the earlier years of life created the foundation for all subconscious beliefs about ourselves and relationships. In accepting the inner child and exposing dysfunctional traits and patterns, the healing process can begin. This illustrates how the childhood and adolescent environment can positively and negatively influence the quality of young adult romantic relationships. “To go forward you have to go back and set yourself free” (LePra N., 2019). 

Review of Literature 

Familial Contributions 

The emotional, mental, and physical environment during childhood and adolescent years contribute to the character of an individual. The home is the first classroom a child is introduced to. In this environment, the child is exposed to communication skills, how to display affection, and other interpersonal skills. The child mirrors the behavior he or she sees from the parents, whether positive or negative, and create a general set of expectations for romantic relationships (Fedman, Gowen, Fisher, 1998). Berg-Nielson et al. discovered that the behaviors of the parents, both direct and indirect, influence interpersonal skills in a child that can have drastic effects on how they interact with others. His findings showed that depressed mothers lacked the ability of sensitivity when it comes to the needs of her children and  and were more rejecting. In regards to the paternal contribution, fathers with anxiety disorders were “associated with negative criticism towards offspring” (Vera, J., Granero, R., & Ezpeleta, L. 2012). Studies have shown that interactions rooted in hostility and the absence of warmth contribute to struggling romantic relationships (Conger et al., 2000).  

On the contrary, research proves that there is also a positive connection between parent-child interactions during adolescence and the quality of romantic relationships later on (Seiffge-Krenke, Shulman, & Klessinger, 2001). Based on a US sample conducted in 1998, adolescents rated the quality of their romantic relationships is associated with the quality of the relationship they have with their parents. Conger et al. (2000) showed that “adolescents reared in nurturing and supportive families displayed more supportive and less hostile behaviors toward romantic partners in young adulthood”, contributing to a healthy and successful relationship. 

Personality Influences on Romantic Relationships

An individual’s way of thinking, behaving, and feeling are important factors for comprehending behaviors in romantic relationships (Caspi, 1998; Funder, 1991). Negative emotionality is an important personality trait that influences the success of relationships. Tellegen’s concept of normal personality shows that individuals in high negative emotionality have a low threshold for experiencing emotions such as anger or hostility. He continues to state how these individuals may exhibit more negative and distressing emotions in response to conflict that may occur with their romantic partner. It was concluded that this particular personality trait of negative emotionality can potentially be detrimental to romantic relationships. 

In a different light, there are positive personality traits that are associated with successful romantic relationships; ;positive emotionality, agreeableness, and constraint being a few. Unlike those with negative emotionality, individuals with positive emotionality display a high threshold for positive emotions like joy. These individuals are more drawn to interpersonal relationships (Tellegen, 1982). In reference to constraint, individuals who obtain high self- control are less likely to engage in objectionable behavior, thus reducing the amount of conflict in their relationship (Robins et al., 2000). 


Ultimately, there are many components to a healthy relationship. As seen throughout the review, two major contributions to the success of a relationship are found within one’s personality and the environment in which they were brought up in. This research proves the statement, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” to be true in that whatever a child is exposed to is what they build their foundation on and influences their behavior and expectations. Upon concluding this review, the question still remains; now that we have this information, how can the exposure to negative interpersonal skills be undone in hope of building a healthy relationship? Even with the progress, how can the desire to slip back into negative attributes be hindered? 

Works Cited 

Vera, J., Granero, R., & Ezpeleta, L. (2012). Father’s and Mother’s Perceptions of Parenting 

Styles as Mediators of the Effects of Parental Psychopathology on Antisocial Behavior in 

Outpatient Children and Adolescents. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 43(3),


Donnellan, M. B., Larsen-Rife, D., & Conger, R. D. (2005). Personality, Family History, and

 Competence in Early Adult Romantic Relationships. Journal of Personality & Social

 Psychology, 88(3), 562–576.

Crockett, L. J., & Randall, B. A. (2006). Linking adolescent family and peer relationships to the 

quality of young adult romantic relationships: The mediating role of conflict tactics. 

Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 23(5), 761–780.

Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., Lippold, M. A., & Feinberg, M. E. (2018). A Developmental Perspective on Young Adult Romantic Relationships: Examining Family and Individual Factors in Adolescence. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 47(7), 1499–1516.

Michaeli, Y., Hakhmigari, M. K., Scharf, M., Shulman, S., & Kalfon Hakhmigari, M. (2018). Romantic outcomes in young adulthood: The role of dependency, parental support, and reflective functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(7), 873–881. 

Karney, B., Beckett, M., Collins, R., & Shaw, R. (2007). Adolescent Romantic Relationships as Precursors of Healthy Adult Marriages: A Review of Theory, Research, and Programs. doi: 10.7249/tr488

APA Dictionary of Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved from