Age Differences in Effects of Family Structure and Quality on Attachment to Family and Romantic Partners

Margareta Jelić, Željka Kamenov

Abstract


The aim of this research was to examine the differences in attachment to romantic partners and family members between individuals whose parents had divorced, those whose parents had high quality marriages and those whose parents had low quality marriages, as well as to find out whether the effects of family structure and the quality of relationship between parents vary with age and gender. A total of 1478 participants (433 high-school students, 621 undergraduate students and 424 adults) were included in the research. Data about family structure and the quality of parental relationship were obtained and modifications of the Experiences in Close Relationship Inventory were applied in order to assess attachment to family and romantic partners. Significant effect of relationship between parents was found on anxiety in attachment to romantic partners. Specifically, individuals whose parents had low marital quality while they were teenagers appear to be more anxious in their romantic relationships in comparison to those from well-functioning families as well as those whose parents divorced. However, when it comes to attachment to family, we found main effects of age, gender and the type of family, as well as interaction effect of gender and age on avoidance dimension. Both high-school boys and girls scored higher on avoidance of closeness with family members than all other subsamples, but men generally scored higher on avoidance to family then women. Overall, the quality of relationship between parents proved to be more important than family structure, with effects on avoidant attachment to family and anxious attachment to romantic partners for both genders and across the age groups.

Keywords


attachment to romantic partners; attachment to family; family structure; quality of relationship between parents; age differences; gender differences

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