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Meddling Parents can Ruin Relationships, Study Reports

Update Date: Jul 05, 2014 11:17 AM EDT

According to a new study, when parents meddle into their children's relationships, the relationships can become jeopardized. The findings of this study contradicted the findings from a 1972 study that supported the theory called the "Romeo and Juliet effect," which stated that couples' love grew stronger if parents interfered.

In this recent study, the researchers attempted to replicate the 1972 study to see if they would find the same results. The team recruited 396 adults with half of them currently dating while the other half were married. The participants filled out two questionnaires four months apart. In the first survey, participants answered questions about whether or not their parents approved of their relationship and if their parents interfered. In the follow-up survey, the participants had to report how much love and commitment they felt in their relationship.

The researchers discovered that couples that had parental approval were more likely to report higher levels of love and commitment in comparison to couples that did not receive their parents' approval. The team added that when parents interfered, people who were married reported less love and commitment. For people who were dating, parents' interference did not affect their levels of love and commitment. The researchers noted that the different results could be attributed to changes in culture.

"One essential difference between the original study and subsequent follow ups has been the operationalization of social network opinions.  focused on whether couple members had communicated to one another that they felt the other's parents were interfering in their relationship. In contrast, with few exceptions, the majority of subsequent studies examined network approval on a single continuum, such that if a party scored low on approval indices then they were considered disapproving of the relationship. Although interference is a behavioral manifestation of disapproval - a particularly active, direct form of disapproval - it may not be fair to compare studies measuring perceived approval, or the lack thereof, as equivalent to studies assessing interference," the investigators wrote.

The study, "Revisiting the Romeo and Juliet Effect," was published in the journal, Social Psychology.

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