Couples and Mental Health

How do couple relationships influence health and well-being during adulthood?

A large body of literature demonstrates that conflict and discord in our adult intimate relationships can put us at risk for greater depression, anxiety, and substance use problems. In fact, couples interventions focusing on reducing conflict and developing more effective communication skills are effective options for treating adult depression.  Yet, intimate relationships consist of so much more than just managing conflict and disagreements (thankfully!).

Accordingly, a primary objective of the Family Development Lab is to examine multiple dimensions of intimate relationships in order to best explain how families ultimately promote health and well-being during adulthood. Some of these relationship qualities include:

  • the quality of support provided when one partner is feeling down or has a problem
  • the degree to which partners feel a sense of mutual closeness, warmth, interdependence, and affection for one another (i.e., intimacy)
  • the extent to which partners are respected and treat one another as competent adults
  • the quality of the sexual relationship and degree of sensuality between partners
  • the frequency and intensity of disagreements, degree of physical and psychological aggression, and conflict resolution strategies

We conduct in-depth, multi-method investigations of relationship processes in order to understand the specific behaviors unfolding in intimate relationships that ultimately contribute to better or worse mental health outcomes. Further, we are interested in explaining how various aspects of intimate relationships minimize the negative effects of well-established risk factors for psychopathology such as negative temperament, major life stressors or traumas, and chronic strains associated with daily life.

In the News

Representative Publications

Brock, R.L., Kroska, E., & Lawrence, E. (2016). Chapter 21: Current status of research on couples. In T. Sexton &  J. Lebow (Eds.), Handbook of family therapy (2nd ed., pp. 409-433). NY: Taylor & Francis.

Brock, R.L., O’Hara, M., Hart, K.J., McCabe, J.E., Williamson, J.A., Laplante, D.P., Yu, C., & King, S. (2014). Partner support and maternal depression in the context of the Iowa floods. Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 832-843. doi: 10.1037/fam0000027

Brock, R.L., & Lawrence, E. (2014). Marital processes, neuroticism, and stress as risk factors for internalizing symptoms. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 3, 30-47. doi: 10.1037/cfp0000007

Brock, R.L., & Lawrence, E. (2014). Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and contextual predictors of support overprovision in marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 54-64. doi:10.1037/a0035280

Brock, R.L. & Lawrence, E. (2011). Marriage as a risk factor for internalizing disorders: Clarifying scope and specificity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79, 577-589. doi:10.1037/a0024941

Brock, R. L., & Lawrence, E. (2010). A unified and multifaceted approach to examining support transactions in marriageIn K.S. Pearlman (Ed.), Marriage: Roles, stability and conflicts (pp. 31-54). NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Brock, R. L., & Lawrence, E. (2010). Support adequacy in marriage: Observing the platinum rule. In K.T. Sullivan & J. Davila (Eds.), Support processes in intimate relationships (pp. 3-25)NY: Oxford Press.

Brock, R. L., & Lawrence, E. (2009). Too much of a good thing: Underprovision versus overprovision of partner support. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 181-192. doi:10.1037/a0015402

Brock, R. L., & Lawrence, E. (2008). A longitudinal investigation of stress spillover in marriage: Does spousal support adequacy buffer the effects? Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 11-20. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.22.1.11