Pathways from family contextual factors to romantic outcomes in young adults of divorced parents: mediation through peer competence and coping efficacy

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Using a sample of children from divorced homes, the current study assesses the effects of family relationship variables on romantic outcomes in young adulthood, through the influence of several individual-level

Using a sample of children from divorced homes, the current study assesses the effects of family relationship variables on romantic outcomes in young adulthood, through the influence of several individual-level variables. In particular, children's coping efficacy and peer competence are examined as mediators of the effects of parenting and interparental conflict on children's later romantic involvement and relationship quality. Assessments occurred during childhood, when children were between the ages of nine and 12, in adolescence, when children were ages 15 to 18, and in young adulthood, when children were ages 24 to 27, spanning a period of 15 years. Childhood and adolescent variables were measured using child- and mother-report data and young adult measures were completed by the young adults and their romantic partners. One model was tested using all participants in the sample, regardless of whether they were romantically involved in young adulthood, and revealed that maternal warmth in childhood was linked with children's coping efficacy six years later, which was marginally related to an increased likelihood of being romantically involved and to decreased romantic attachment at the 15-year follow-up. A model with only the participants who were romantically involved in young adulthood also revealed a link between childhood maternal warmth and coping efficacy in adolescence, which was then marginally related to increased romantic satisfaction and to confidence in the romantic relationship in young adulthood. Marginal mediation was also found for several of the proposed paths, and there was little evidence to support path differences between males and females. Implications of the present findings for research with children from divorced families and the development of preventive interventions are discussed. In particular, parenting, interparental conflict, peer competence, and coping efficacy are examined as modifiable targets for change and existing preventive interventions employing these targets are described.