Abstract The purpose of our study was to investigate how connection between parents and children influences the child's healthy separation during adolescence. We analyzed 3 waves of panel data from a study (Flourishing Families Project) of 500 families with children who were 10–13 years old at Time 1. This study includes information from the perspective of the child and his/her mother over a 4 year period for two-parent families and mother-headed households. Findings supported our hypothesis that a mutual sense of connection between mothers and adolescents supported the adolescent's healthy separation over time, with differences due to sex of the child, ethnicity and income. Pubertal maturation was negatively associated with the sense of connection between adolescents and mothers in our sample of young adolescents. We discuss these findings in relation to previous literature.