Decades of research have shown that family-of-origin experiences are generally important predictors of individuals' later relationship/marital quality. On average, the healthier these experiences are, the healthier adult children's relationships and marriages tend to be. The focus of this study was to investigate how coming to terms with difficulties experienced in the family of origin may enhance adult children's ability to create high quality relationships and marriages. The study employed a sample of 6423 U.S. couples, 18-45 years old, who were dating, cohabitating, engaged or married. This study showed that individuals in couple relationships who reported healthier family-of-origin experiences and those who had come to terms with difficult experiences in their families had higher relationship/marital quality than those who reported less healthy experiences and had not come to terms with them. Males in this sample were more likely than females to have come to terms with difficulties experienced in their families of origin, while females were more likely than males to believe that there was still something from their family experience that they were struggling with. Results showed that individuals may have utilized several factors to help them come to terms with difficulties in their families. Some of these factors may have been: being autonomous from the family of origin, being agreeable, extroverted, flexible, mature, spiritual, loving, having high self-esteem, being able to be empathetic and send clear messages while communicating with partners, spouses, or parents. Some vulnerabilities associated with coming to terms may have been: showing symptoms of depression, neuroticism, contempt, stonewalling, flooding, and being negative in relating to others. Results of this study suggest that the ability to come to terms with difficulties in the family of origin is related not only to the resource factors available for the individuals struggling but also to the resources utilized by their partners/spouses.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


Document Type





coming to terms, family of origin, parent-child relationship, parents' marriage, family-of-origin experiences, relationship quality, marital quality