Romantic and Sexual Experiences in Adolescence and Later Relationship Outcomes and Instability: How Do Family of Origin Factors Inform the Relationship Life Course?

Open Access
Boyd, Lisa Marie
Graduate Program:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
September 07, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Paul Richard Amato, Thesis Advisor
  • Romantic relationships
  • sexual behavior
  • adolescents
  • parent-child relationships
  • family structure
  • longitudinal
  • Add Health
This project uses two waves of a nationally representative longitudinal dataset, Add Health, to examine sexual behavior and romantic involvement in adolescence and early adulthood for a group of respondents who were first interviewed as 7th- through 10th-graders in 1994-95. The primary focus of the study is on assessing how family structure and parent-child closeness are related to sexual and romantic behaviors at different stages of life. An additional aim is to identify continuities or discontinuities between adolescence and early adulthood in an effort to determine whether a life course framework lends something valuable to the study of romantic interpersonal interaction. In other words, will the relationship between family predictors and sexual and romantic involvement at Time 1 (Wave I of Add Health) be the same as at Time 2 (Wave III of Add Health)? At Time 1 the outcomes of interest are operationalized as a dichotomous measure of sexual initiation and a count variable capturing number of reported romantic relationships, while at Time 2 sexual behavior is reflected in number of reported sex partners and romantic involvement is measured with a count variable for total number of cohabitation and marital transitions. Results from negative binomial, logistic, and OLS regression indicate that both family structure and parent-child closeness predict sexual initiation and number of relationship transitions in early adulthood, while parent-child closeness also predicts number of relationships in adolescence and number of sex partners at Wave III. Closeness to parents mediates the relationship between family structure and the outcome of interest for most outcomes.