Children of divorce can be an oft-pitied group. People hear the D-word and imagine children being shuttled from one home to another, splitting their holidays in half to see each of their embittered parents. But what happens when those children grow up and prepare to embark on relationships themselves?

The American divorce rate peaked in the early 1980s, reaching 52 percent in 1982 and becoming a common occurrence among Baby Boomers and Generation X. This means that the children of those couples have divorced parents. As many of them reach and surpass today’s median age for marriage, 26 for women and 28 for men, their own attitudes about relationships come into play.

When looking at possible effects of divorce and other family situations Catherine Tamis-Lemonda, A New York University professor of applied psychology and expert on parenting, stresses the importance of the parent and child relationship and how the child’s sense of security can be impacted by divorce. “In attachment theory, it creates a sense that ‘I’m not loveable’ and other people can’t be counted on. And so that sort of insecurity that develops can actually carry over into adult relationships.”

While Dr. Tamis-LeMonda does not tend to look at cross-generational studies, she can offer views on changes caused by the widespread occurrence of parental divorce within Generation Y. “It also builds role models of families. The models could be affecting your relationships, what you think of relationships and stability of relationships.”

Fordham University student Sarah Amendola, 20, described her experience of divorce. Her parents’ decision to end their marriage shocked her when she was eight years old. “When I was little I was like ‘Oh my parents aren’t going to get divorced they’re so happy’ and when they seemed really happy, that’s when they got divorced,” she said.

Since then, her own views on marriage have changed. “I think I would be very weary of [marriage], because you can say something now, and no matter what you say now, it can change,” she said, “I can’t even imagine [my parents] being married, but they were. How do you go from being married and having kids to the complete opposite and hating each other?”

Another member of GenY with divorced parents, Rachel Stein, 24, has a different outlook after seeing her parents’ separation when she was 11 years old, and their subsequent divorce. She feels it was a positive learning experience. “It’s impossible to say how I would be different if they were still together, but I do think seeing two people miserable in a relationship taught me how to be in a partnership,” she said.

Although previously usure of whether she would marry, she had a change of heart when she met her boyfriend, whom she has been dating for four and a half years. “I think that marriage can be a beautiful journey for some people, and a burden for others,” she said, “I never thought I would want to get married until I met [my boyfriend], but now I think I do because of how wonderful it is to have a partner to share my life with.”

Dr. Jeffrey Zimmerman, psychologist and author of “Adult Children of Divorce,” has found that the level of conflict between parents can greatly impact the long lasting consequences of divorce. “The research is showing that parental conflict is really what leads to the most negative impact on kids. It’s not the marital status of their parents, it’s the amount of conflict,” he said.

However when it comes to ways that such conflict can affect the later adult, romantic relationships of their children, Dr. Zimmerman has seen specific triggers. “If a parent interferes in the relationship of the child with the other parent, that child doesn’t get a sense of how do you have a healthy relationship with the other parent,” he said.

Another factor is the future relationships of the parents. “Sometimes parents feel the need to bring significant others, their new partners, into the lives of the children very early on,” Dr. Zimmerman said. The presence of new relationships can affect the children’s trust in others and in relationships.

New York University student Clio McConnell, 19, has been splitting her time between her divorced parents’ homes since she was five years old. Still, she has an optimistic view on marriage—and its potential dissolution.

“I don’t have that notion that marriages always last a lifetime, but I’m also not so cynical that I think marriage is pointless,” she said. “My parents are very different people, and I truly think that they are both happier being apart, and that’s good enough for me. I think marriage is a great thing, but divorce kind of is, too.”