Why are undergraduate emerging adults anxious and avoidant in their romantic relationships? The role of family relationships

Autoři: Marta Díez aff001;  Inmaculada Sánchez-Queija aff001;  Águeda Parra aff001
Působiště autorů: Dpto. Psicología Evolutiva y de la Educación (Developmental and Educational Psychology), Universidad de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain aff001
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(11)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224159


The exploration of and search for romantic relationships is one of the developmental tasks that characterise emerging adulthood, a new developmental phase halfway between adolescence and full adulthood. This study aims to explore, in a Mediterranean country, the existing relationships between the subjective perception of some parental behaviour and the anxiety and avoidance dimensions of attachment during emerging adulthood. To do so, 1,502 university students (903 women and 599 men) aged between 18 and 29 (M = 20.32 and SD = 2.13) completed a self-report questionnaire. The results revealed that perceived family support and perceived parental warmth were negatively associated with the avoidance and anxiety dimensions. In contrast, perceived parental control (both behavioural and psychological) was found to be positively associated with both attachment dimensions. Perceived behavioural control was also found to play a moderator role between perceived parental warmth and romantic attachment anxiety. Only in cases in which emerging adults of our sample perceived low levels of behavioural control was warmth found to be negatively associated with anxiety. The main conclusion of this work is the negative impact that parental control seems to have on romantic attachment during emerging adulthood. The results are discussed with a focus on the continuing importance of the family context in relation to the completion of developmental tasks, even during emerging adulthood.

Klíčová slova:

Adults – Anxiety – Behavior – Emotions – Human families – Interpersonal relationships – Psychometrics – Undergraduates


1. Arnett JJ. Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. Am Psychol. 2000; 55: 469–80. 10842426

2. Arnett JJ. Emerging Adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2004.

3. Kins E, Soenens B, Beyers W. Why do they have to grow up so fast? Parental separation anxiety and emerging adults’ pathology of separation-individuation. J Clin Psychol. 2011; 67: 647–64. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20786 21480225

4. Zupančič M, Komidar L, PuklekLevpušček M. Individuation in Slovene emerging adults: Its associations with demographics, transitional markers, achieved criteria for adulthood, and life satisfaction. J Adolesc. 2014; 37(8): 1421–33. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2014.03.014 24767635

5. Moreno L, Marí-Klose P. Youth, family change and welfare arrangements: is the South still so different?. European societies. 2013; 15(4): 493–513.

6. Black R, Walsh L. Imagining the Family in Post-truth Times. In: Wyn J, Cahill H, Cuervo H, editors. Perspectives on Children and Young People, vol 9: Imagining Youth Futures. Singapore: Springer; 2019. p. 57–75.

7. Vogel J. European welfare regimes and the transition to adulthood: A comparative and longitudinal perspective. Soc Indic Res. 2002; 59(3): 275–99.

8. Eurostat. Estimated average age of young people leaving the parental household by sex. 2019. Retrieved [18/03/2019]. Available from: http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=yth_demo_030&lang=en.

9. Shulman S, Connolly J. The challenge of romantic relationships in emerging adulthood: Reconceptualization of the field. Emerg Adulthood. 2013; 1: 27–39.

10. Arnett JJ. Conceptions of the transition to adulthood: Perspectives from adolescence through midlife. J Adult Dev. 2001; 8: 133–43.

11. Shulman S, Scharf M. Adolescent Romantic Behaviors and Perceptions: Age- and Gender-Related Differences, and Links With Family and Peer Relationships. J Res Adolesc. 2000; 10: 99–118.

12. Butzer B, Campbell L. Adult attachment, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction: A study of married couples. Pers Relatsh. 2008; 15: 141–54.

13. Hadden BW, Smith CV, Webster GD. Relationship duration moderates associations between attachment and relationship quality: Meta-analytic support for the temporal adult romantic attachment model. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2014; 18: 42–58. doi: 10.1177/1088868313501885 24026179

14. Li T, Chan DKS. How anxious and avoidant attachment affect romantic relationship quality differently: A meta‐analytic review. Eur J Soc Psychol. 2012; 42: 406–19.

15. Hazan C, Shaver PR. Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1987; 52: 511–24. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.52.3.511 3572722

16. Bowlby J. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1 Attachment. New York: Basic Books; 1969

17. Bowlby J. Attachment and loss: Vol. 2 Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books; 1973.

18. Bowlby J. Attachment and loss: Vol. 3 loss: Sadness and depression. New York: Basic Books; 1980.

19. Bartholomew K. Avoidance of intimacy: An attachment perspective. J Soc Pers Relat. 1990; 7: 147–78.

20. Brennan KA, Clark CL, Shaver PR. Self-report measurement of adult attachment: An integrative overview. In: Rholes WS, Simpson JA, editors. Attachment theory and close relationships. New York: Guilford Press.1998. p 46–76.

21. Mikulincer M, Shaver PR. Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. New York: Guilford Press; 2007.

22. Ladd GW, Pettit GS. Parenting and the Development of Children's Peer Relationships. In Bornstein, editor. Handbook of Parenting, vol 5: Practical Issues in Parenting. Mahwah, N. J: Erlbaum. 2002. p. 269–310.

23. Schneider BH, Atkinson L, Tardif C. Child-parent Attachment and Children´s Peer Relations: A Quantitative Review. Dev Psychol. 2001; 37: 86–100. 11206436

24. Conger RD, Cui M, Byrant CM, Elder GH Competence in early adult romantic relationships: A developmental perspective on family influences. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000; 79: 224–37. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.79.2.224 10948976

25. Dalton WI, Frick-Horbury D, Kitzmann KM (2006). Young adults’ retrospective reports of parenting by mothers and fathers: Associations with current relationship quality. J Gen Psychol. 2006; 133: 5–18. doi: 10.3200/GENP.133.1.5-18 16475666

26. Dinero E, Conger D, Shaver R, Widaman F. Larsen-Rife D. Influence of family of origin and adult romantic partners on romantic attachment security. J Fam Psychol. 2008; 22: 622–32. doi: 10.1037/a0012506 18729676

27. Seiffge-Krenke I, Persike M, Shulman S. Gendered pathways to romantic attachment in emerging adults: The role of body image and parental support. Eur J Dev Psychol. 2015; 12: 533–48.

28. Cai M, Hardy SA, Olsen JA, Nelson DA, Yamawaki N. Adolescent–parent attachment as a mediator of relations between parenting and adolescent social behavior and wellbeing in China. Int J Psychol. 2013; 48:1185–90. doi: 10.1080/00207594.2013.774091 23509911

29. Karataş S, Levpušček MP, Komidar L. (2017). Demographic Factors and Individuation in Relation to Parents Predicting Attachment Avoidance and Anxiety in Turkish Emerging Adults. Curr Psychol. 2017; 9691–8. Epub 2017 sept 30.

30. Levy K, Blatt S, Shaver PR. Attachment style and parental representations. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998; 74: 407–19.

31. Scharf M, Mayseless O. (2001). The capacity for romantic intimacy: Exploring the contribution of best friend and marital and parental relationships. J Adolesc. 2001; 24: 379–99. doi: 10.1006/jado.2001.0405 11476613

32. Shulman S, Seiffge-Krenke I, Scharf M, Boiangiu SB, Tregubenko V. The diversity of romantic pathways during emerging adulthood and their developmental antecedents. Int J Behav Dev. 2018, 42: 167–74.

33. Collins WA, Welsh DP, Furman W. Adolescent romantic relationships. Annu Rev Psychol. 2009; 60: 631–52. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163459 19035830

34. Doyle AB, Markiewicz D. Parenting, marital conflict and adjustment from early-to mid-adolescence: Mediated by adolescent attachment style?. J Youth Adolesc. 2005; 34: 97–110.

35. Güngör D, Bornstein MH. Culture-general and-specific associations of attachment avoidance and anxiety with perceived parental warmth and psychological control among Turk and Belgian adolescents. J Adolesc. 2010; 33: 593–602. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.12.005 20079527

36. Auslander BA, Short MB, Succop PA, Rosenthal SL. Associations between parenting behaviors and adolescent romantic relationships. J Adolesc Health. 2009; 45: 98–101. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.12.014 19541257

37. Barber B, Harmon E. Violating the self: Parental psychological control of children and adolescents. In: Barber B, editors. Intrusive Parenting: How Psychological Control Affects Children and Adolescents. New York: American Psychological Association; 2002. p. 15–22.

38. Karre JK. Fathering Behavior and Emerging Adult Romantic Relationship Quality: Individual and Constellations of Behavior. J Adult Dev. 2015; 22: 148–58.

39. Desjardins T, Leadbeater BJ. Changes in parental emotional support and psychological control in early adulthood: Direct and indirect associations with educational and occupational adjustment. Emerg Adulthood. 2017; 5: 177–90.

40. Gray MR, Steinberg L. Unpacking Authoritative parenting: Reassessing a Multidimensional Construct. J Marriage Fam. 1999; 61: 574–88.

41. García-Mendoza MC, Sánchez-Queija I, Parra A. The Role of Parents in Emerging Adults’ Psychological Well-Being: a Person-Oriented Approach. Fam Process. 2018 Sep 10. Epub 2018 Sep 10

42. Nelson LJ, Padilla-Walker LM, Christensen KJ, Evans CA, Carroll JS. Parenting in emerging adulthood: An examination of parenting clusters and correlates. J Youth Adolesc. 2011; 40: 730–43. doi: 10.1007/s10964-010-9584-8 20809102

43. Alonso-Arbiol I, Balluerka N, Shaver PR. A Spanish version of the Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR) adult attachment questionnaire. Pers Relatsh. 2007; 14: 45–6

44. Zimet GD, Dahlem NW, Zimet SG, Farley GK. The multidimensional scale of perceived social support. J Pers Assess. 1988; 52: 30–41.

45. Grolnick WS, Ryan RM, Deci EL. Inner resources for school achievement: Motivational mediators of children’s perceptions of their parents. J Educ Psychol. 1991; 83: 508–517.

46. Robbins RJ. An assessment of perceptions of parental autonomy support and control: Child and parent correlates. [Doctoral Dissertation]. Department of Psychology: University of Rochester; 1994.

47. Oliva A, Parra A, Sánchez-Queija I, López F. Estilos educativos materno y paterno: evaluación y relación con el ajuste adolescente. Anales de Psicología. 2007; 23: 49–56. Spanish.

48. Kerr M, Stattin H. What parents know, how they know it, and several forms of adolescent adjustment: further support for a reinterpretation of monitoring. Dev Psychol. 2000; 36: 366–80. 10830980

49. Newsom JT. (n.d.). Interaction and simple slopes tests with two continuous variables. 2018 [Retrieved 2018 March 04]. Available from: http://web.pdx.edu/~newsomj/macros.htm.

50. Jose PE. Moderation/Mediation Help Centre (Ver. 3.0). Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand, School of Psychology. [Retrieved 2019 jan 10]. Available from: https://psychology.victoria.ac.nz/helpcentre/

51. Del Giudice M. Sex differences in romantic attachment: A meta-analysis. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2011; 37: 193–214. doi: 10.1177/0146167210392789 21239594

52. Mínguez A. Empleo de la mujer y familia en los regímenes de bienestar del sur de Europa en perspectiva comparada. Permanencia del modelo de varón sustentador. Rev Esp Invest Sociol. 2005;112: 131–63.

53. Monteoliva J, García-Martínez MA, Calvo-Salguero A, Aguilar-Luzón MC. Differences between men and women with a dismissing attachment style regarding their attitudes and behaviour in romantic relationships. Int J Psychol. 2012; 47: 335–45. doi: 10.1080/00207594.2011.634007 22242783

54. Bejanyan K, Marshall TC, Ferenczi N (2015) Associations of Collectivism with Relationships Commitment, Passion, and Mate Preferences: Opposing Roles of Parental Influence and Family Allocentrims. PLoS One. 10:E0117374 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117374 25719563

Článek vyšel v časopise


2019 Číslo 11