Sociology Ph.D. Dissertations


Romantic Relationships in Young Adulthood: Assessing Relationship Quality, Union Dissolution, and Repartnering

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Wendy D. Manning (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Peggy C. Giordano (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kara Joyner (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Monica A. Longmore (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Man Zhang (Other)


Young adulthood is a stage in the life course characterized by exploration, instability, and change. While the traditional markers of adulthood have become increasingly more difficult for young adults to attain, there are several important developmental tasks for them to achieve. Among these developmental tasks include the formation of romantic relationships. Research on romantic relationships in young adulthood has grown over the past few decades, but few researchers have explored the correlates of young adults’ relationship quality, union dissolution, and repartnering. Further missing from this body of work is a focus on subjective correlates, which are indicators that broadly capture an individual’s feelings about and perceptions of their life experiences. Such indicators are important to consider among young adults, whose subjective interpretations of various aspects of their lives may not always correspond with their objective realities. Addressing these gaps within the literature, this dissertation uses data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (TARS) to assess the objective and subjective correlates of relationship quality, union dissolution, and repartnering in young adulthood. In the first two analytic chapters, I examine the correlates of relationship quality and union dissolution, focusing my attention on the role of socioeconomic characteristics in these relationship outcomes. In the final analytic chapter, I examine the prevalence, patterns, and predictors of repartnering in young adulthood. The overall findings of this dissertation suggest that while young adults’ romantic relationships tend to be characterized by more positive qualities, many experience the dissolution of their relationships and subsequently repartner following their breakups. These findings also highlight the importance of considering subjective correlates in assessments of young adults’ relationships. More often than not, the subjective correlates, including financial prospects, stress, and relationship dynamics, were more strongly associated with the relationship outcomes than the objective correlates in each of the analytic chapters. The findings from this dissertation make important contributions to the literature by documenting levels of relationship quality, union dissolution, and repartnering in young adulthood, and further highlight how these outcomes vary for young adults with diverse sociodemographic backgrounds and relationship experiences. This dissertation underscores the need for future research to consider various correlates and relationship outcomes in an effort to advance our understanding of the meaning of romantic relationships in young adulthood.