His or Her Parents? Perceived Parental Approval of Romantic Relationships Among College Students and Their Partners


  • Kyung-Hee Lee
  • Andrea V. R. Swenson
  • Sylvia Niehuis


Using social capital theory, this study of 194 dating couples examined the connection between parents’ approval of the dating relationship (reported by each couple member for
his/her own parents and the partner’s parents) and participants’ relationship distress. The Actor-Partner-Interdependence Model within Structural Equation Modeling served as the data-analytic tool. Results showed that, in support of the theory, relationship approval from strong ties (one’s own parents) and from weak ties (one’s partner’s parents) manifested themselves differently in romantic relationships. Specifically, both men’s and women’s
perception of relationship approval from their own parents (strong ties) and from their partner’s parents (weak ties) negatively predicted couple members’ own relationship
distress. Moreover, path coefficients between men’s and women’s strong ties and their own relationship distress were roughly twice as large as those between men’s and women’s
weak ties and their relationship distress. Findings were less clear for the association between perceptions of relationship approval from one’s own and one’s partner’s parents and the dating partners’ relationship distress. The findings are discussed in light of prior research and theory on social capital.