U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Late Adolescent Girls' Relationships with Parents and Romantic Partner: The Distinct Role of Mothers and Fathers

NCJ Number
Journal of Adolescence Volume: 31 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2008 Pages: 837-855
Miri Scharf; Ofra Mayseless
Date Published
December 2008
19 pages
This Israeli study examined the distinctive role of mothers and fathers in shaping the quality of late-adolescent girls’ (17 years old) relationship with a romantic partner.
The study found that although self-reports did not distinguish between relationships with mothers and fathers, observation data revealed that the characteristics of relationships with each parent were associated with somewhat different aspects of the romantic relationship. A better quality of relationship with her mother was associated with delays in the adolescent girl’s entrance into sexual romantic relationships and with a better quality of the current romantic relationship. A better quality of relationship with the father was associated with a better quality romantic relationship once they were formed and over time. The findings suggest that in late adolescence, a girl’s relationships with both father and mother may serve as prototypes. When issues of intimacy and commitment in heterosexual relationships become primary, mostly later in the developmental trajectories of the girls, the relationship with the father becomes more central. This may exert a stronger effect on the quality of the romantic relationship. At this stage, the prototype of the relationship with the parent of the other sex may be more salient. The study recruited 120 late-adolescent girls in Israel who were planning to start compulsory military services away from home. The families were recruited from middle-class neighborhoods and were typically well-educated. The Revealed Differences Family Interaction Task (Allen, Hauser, Bell, Boykin, and Tate, 1994) was used to observe the quality of the relationship of daughters with fathers and with mothers separately. Each interaction occurred in the context of a family issue on which they disagreed. Interactions were coded from the videotapes complemented by the transcriptions. The quality of romantic relations was measured with the Social Support Questionnaire and the WHOTO Attachment-Related Functions Measure. 1 table and 76 references