Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Young Adult Union Formation

Ann Meier, University of Minnesota

Life course sociologists and developmental psychologists assert that adolescent romantic relationships provide “practice” for romantic relationships in adulthood. Yet, too much practice or practice in poor quality relationships may negatively impact young adult unions. Using the first two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, I identify adolescent romantic relationship profiles as single (no relationships in waves 1 and 2), solo (one short relationship), steady (one long relationship), serial (several non-overlapping relationships), or concurrent (several overlapping relationships). Predicting wave 3 young adult union formation, those who are single in adolescence are less likely to have formed a residential union net of age, race, and family background. Among those with adolescent relationship experience, women who had concurrent profiles are less likely to be married, and men who had serial or concurrent profiles are more likely to cohabit. Further analysis explores the role of adolescent and young adult relationship quality.

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Presented in Session 8: Union Formation