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Richard Wielkiewicz


A survey was used to assess the effects of parental marital status and conflict on the intimate dating relationships of 154 undergraduate volunteers from two private Catholic institutions. Seventy-three percent of the participants were female, 13% were from divorced families, and most participants ranged from 19 to 24 years of age. The effects of parental divorce and conflict were found to be both beneficial and harmful to the adjustment of offspring and development of intimate relationships. Parental divorce, conflict, and low levels of family functioning were associated with increased involvement in steady dating relationships and more self-reported happiness within current intimate relationships. In contrast, parental conflict and low quality of family functioning were related to students' threatening to break up with their partner. High quality of family functioning was linked to a secure attachment style in offspring, while low family functioning was related to an avoidant attachment style. High levels of student identity correlated with high dyadic adjustment and idealism, whereas low quality of family functioning was related to higher fear of intimacy. Based on these inconsistent results, it is possible that individuals from divorced and conflictual families have biased perceptions of the quality of their dating relationships due to their experience of the troubled parental relationship, and that they subsequently choose to avoid the mistakes of their parents by avoiding or minimizing conflict within their personal intimate relationships. However negative perceptions of quality of family functioning should not be discounted, as they appear to have detrimental effects on some areas of offspring adjustment. Perhaps students' distorted perceptions combined with parental ability to distance their children from divorce-related conflict and model effective problem solving account for this pattern of results.

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