Meet the parents (and friends) : examining the association between social network introductions and romantic relationship state and fate
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Part of the natural progression of any romantic relationship is that, over time, individuals will meet and form connections with each other’s friends and family (Milardo, 1982). Interestingly, the examination of social network introductions has largely been neglected by researchers. We do not know when couple members introduce each other to their friends and parents. We also do not know what effect, if any, these network introductions have on future relationship outcomes. The present study addressed these gaps. Specifically, I examined when couple members typically met each other’s friends and parents for the first time, whether relationship quality influenced the likelihood of making these introductions, and whether these introductions predicted later relationship outcomes (i.e., relationship quality, likelihood of breakup, and post-breakup adjustment). In the present study, participants in new romantic relationships (less than 6 months duration) completed a survey every two weeks for nine months. In each survey, participants indicated whether friend and family introductions had occurred, their current relationship quality, and whether they had broken up with their partners since the previous survey. If individuals reported having broken up, they were asked about their reactions to the breakup. Results revealed that friends were typically introduced before parents, and that relationship quality predicted the likelihood of newly dating individuals introducing their parents (but not friends) to their romantic partners. Largely, network introductions failed to predict later perceptions of relationship quality but did influence the likelihood of relationship dissolution over the course of the study. Furthermore, introductions to participants’ mothers predicted worse emotional reactions to a breakup, and introductions to participants’ fathers and best friends were associated with greater relationship longing. The results of this study represent an important first step in understanding when individuals introduce their romantic partners to their friends and family and how these introductions influence relationship development.