Adolescent Romantic Relationships as Precursors of Healthy Adult Marriages

A Review of Theory, Research, and Programs

by Benjamin Karney, Megan K. Beckett, Rebecca L. Collins, Rebecca Shaw

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Policymakers are interested in promoting healthy marriages in adulthood by providing services to strengthen the adolescent precursors of healthy marriage, especially within low-income populations. But if programs and curricula targeting adolescent romantic relationships are to be effective, they must be grounded in an accurate understanding of how adolescent relationships function and the role that they play in the development of healthy adult marriages. This report evaluates the current landscape of theory, research, and interventions addressing the role of adolescent romantic relationships in the development of healthy adult marriages. Drawing on a thorough review of the existing theoretical and empirical literature in this area, as well as interviews with practitioners directly involved with developing or administering relationship education to adolescents, the authors bring together relevant research and theory from a wide range of disciplines that have examined these issues, and suggest future directions for research and intervention. In particular, they note that although research describing romantic relationships in low-income populations is sparse, there are already-existing nationally representative data sets that include data from substantial numbers of well-sampled low-income adolescents. Analyses of these data would have relatively low cost and a potentially high yield for informing policies that target low-income youth.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Describing Adolescents’ Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors with Respect to Romantic Relationships

  • Chapter Three

    Theoretical Perspectives on Adolescent Relationships and Adult Development

  • Chapter Four

    Review of Research on the Causes, Correlates, and Consequences of Romantic Relationships in Adolescence

  • Chapter Five

    Review of Relationship Education Programs for Adolescents

  • Chapter Six

    Future Directions for Research and Intervention

The research described in this report was prepared for the Department of Health and Human Services and performed under the auspices of RAND Labor and Population.

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