Parent-child relationships and interracial first union formation in the United States


Yahirun, Jenjira J. & Kroeger, Rhiannon A. (2019). Parent-child relationships and interracial first union formation in the United States. Advances in Life Course Research.


The family of origin was once considered an important “third party” in shaping offspring romantic relationships. However, the increased independence of young adults challenges this idea by suggesting that parents today may have less control over children’s romantic lives than prior generations. Drawing on a “linked lives” framework, this paper uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and discrete-time competing risks event history analysis to examine whether an individual’s relationship with parents during adolescence affects entry into first unions with same- or different-race partners in young adulthood. Findings suggest that stronger parent-child ties in adolescence deterred entry into any union in young adulthood– same-race or interracial, relative to forming no unions. However, stronger intergenerational ties were associated with an increased likelihood of forming same-race unions versus interracial unions. When the definition of union was expanded to include direct marital first unions versus cohabiting first unions, results suggest that stronger intergenerational ties increased the likelihood of same-race versus interracial cohabiting first unions, but did not significantly influence same-race versus interracial direct marital first unions. Analyses by respondent race indicate few differences among Whites and non-Whites. These findings highlight the potential for parental influence on young adults’ romantic relationships in an era of increasing family diversity.



Interracial/ethnic unions

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Advances in Life Course Research


Yahirun, Jenjira J.
Kroeger, Rhiannon A.

Year Published






Reference ID