Interpersonal Relationships

Our faculty are interested in the factors that affect the formation, maintenance, and (sometimes) deterioration of personal and family relationships throughout life. We explore a wide variety of personal relationships, including friendships, family relationships (e.g., parent-child relationships, in-laws, siblings), romantic liaisons (e.g., causal hook-ups, dating relationships) and marriages. Collectively, we adopt a wide range of methodological and theoretical approaches. Regardless of the type of relationship being scrutinized, the theories guiding the work, or the methods employed, the impact relationship and life transitions have on interpersonal relationship dynamics is a key focus across many faculty labs.

Edward Anderson studies how children influence adult’s decisions concerning when and how to repartner after divorce. He also investigates how repartnering alters the existing co-parental relationship between ex-spouses.

Ted Dix examines how early parent-child relationships regulate the quality of parenting and the emergence of children’s socioemotional competence. Emphasized in this work is the importance of parent-child relationships in the emergence of positive, coordinated patterns of parent-child interaction based on shared goals, effective patterns of communication, and well regulated affective states.

Paul Eastwick investigates how people initiate and maintain romantic relationships. Specifically, his work applies theoretical insights and methodological approaches from contemporary research on close relationships to classic evolutionary psychological topics such as attraction, mate value, and sex differences.

Karen Fingerman studies age differences in personal relationships across adulthood. Her research includes parent/child ties in adulthood, romantic ties and non-family ties.

Marci Gleason studies the role of social support in couple functioning when couples are experiencing stressful life circumstances such as first time parenthood and serious family illness.

Nancy Hazen examines individual differences in parent-child relationships, parents’ marital relationships, and children’s peer relationships, as well as interrelations between parent-child and marital relationships, and between parent-child and peer relationships. For example, she has examined individual differences in couples’ transition to parenthood, and how this relates to their marital quality, their parenting quality, and their children outcomes.

Deborah Jacobvitz draws on Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment theory to study couple communication, relationship loss and grieving, and attachment-related mental processes. For example, she has published papers on how couple communication changes over the transition to first-time parenthood and its effects on parents’ well being.

Timothy Loving is interested in how romantic relationships and friendships develop and function over time, with a particular focus on relationship support processes and mental and physical health.

Lisa Neff studies how marriages change and develop over time. Her work explores the relational processes, both cognitive and behavioral, that predict whether initially satisfying marriages remain happy or deteriorate during the early years of marriage.