Silicon Valley Notebook


Eryn Olson


The impacts of interpersonal relationships (in childhood and in early adulthood) on risk-taking behavior of young adults were the focus of this research. Data from the 2012 New Family Structures Survey (using a subset of 2,917 young adults aged 18-39), disaggregated by whether the respondents grew up in conventional or unconventional households, were augmented with eight interviews with health and counseling professionals. Healthy early family relationships and current romantic relationships offered the best protections against adult risk-taking behavior, irrespective of family household structure. On the other hand, a healthy parent-child relationship in adulthood and bullying victimization in childhood were both linked to increased risk-taking in later years, but only if raised in unconventional families. These findings contributed to the empirical literature on the consequences of healthy relationships, with natal families, peers, and partners, for positive life decisions and partly illuminated Agnew’s Strain and Aker’s Social Control Theories. Exploring a fuller range of unconventional family structures, a broader variety of risk-taking behaviors, and whether said behaviors turn into addictions will better highlight the long-term consequences of relationship connectivity for adult risk-taking.