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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Psychology

Psychology Matters

Research Matters: Clinical Science

clinicalCenter for Marital and Family Studies (CMFS)

Howard Markman, Ph.D
Kayla Knopp
4th year Graduate student (Clinical Program)
Lane Ritchie
3rd year Graduate student (Clinical Program) 

Faculty and graduate students in the Center for Marital and Family Studies (CMFS) work to marry the basic science of relationships with the development of effective interventions for couples. The three current graduate students are each pursuing dissertation research that aims to understand the basic processes that determine how romantic relationships succeed (or not). Aleja Parsons' dissertation project explores experiences of racialization among African-American couples. In particular, she is researching how African-American couples communicate about experiences of racism, discrimination, and microaggressions in their daily lives, and how racial ideologies contribute to the success of African-American relationships. She has applied for a Ford Foundation grant to complete this innovative and socially relevant work. Kayla Knopp's study focuses on the role of the "defining the relationship" (DTR) talk in adolescents' romantic relationships. She has applied for an NRSA predoctoral fellowship from NICHD for this research, and she hopes to test whether making intentional decisions about commitment as part of DTR talks may help protect adolescents against risks to their sexual health and wellbeing. Lane Ritchie plans to propose her dissertation project exploring how couples both explicitly and automatically regulate their attention to romantic alternatives, an important component of maintaining commitment to a relationship over time for many couples.

In addition to this research around basic relationship processes, the CMFS is committed to testing and disseminating evidence-based relationship interventions for couples and individuals. For example, Dr. Markman has been working with the government of Singapore to disseminate PREP (The Prevention and Relationship Education Program) to all couples getting married in Singapore. PREP is a research-supported skills-based intervention designed to prevent relationship distress and help couples maintain healthy relationships over time, and the work in Singapore represents the latest endeavor to disseminate PREP internationally (PREP is used in over 12 countries and has served over 1.5 Million people to date) . Dr. Galena Rhoades has recently received grant funding for several projects to evaluate the effectiveness of relationship education interventions. She is the Principal Investigator on a study testing whether the Within My Reach relationship education program can help at-risk pregnant women have better personal relationships, lower stress, improved wellbeing, and healthier pregnancies. She is partnering with Denver Health Medical Center to provide these services to pregnant women across Denver, using an RCT design to test the effectiveness of Within My Reach as part of a national evaluation funded by the Administration for Children and Families. In addition, Dr. Scott Stanley and Dr. Rhoades are Co-Investigators on two large-scale projects designed to evaluate programs for low income couples and fathers in Oklahoma and Dr. Stanley continues to write his internationally recognized blog, Sliding vs. Deciding.

Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in the CMFS lab family also continue to study relationship processes and intervention effects using existing data sets from several long-term, large-scale longitudinal research projects. These projects include the Relationship Development Study, the Family Stability Project / Family Interaction Study, and the Army Marriage Project. Recent papers from these data have addressed important issues including the impact of PTSD on marriages and children, antecedents and consequences of infidelity, and how children develop their attitudes about marriage and divorce.