Laboratory of Adult Development

One of the core pieces of study at the Laboratory for Adult Development is the Close Relationships Project. This study examines the interreaction of couples, based on varying past and current influences.

Close relationships

Laboratory of Adult Development

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  • The Close Relationships Project The Close Relationships Project is an observational study of couples, aimed at understanding how abuse in childhood and current violence in intimate adult relationships affect people's capacities to manage emotional arousal when dealing with conflicts with intimate partners. By observing couples in the laboratory talking about problems in their relationships, our goal is to better characterize the interpersonal difficulties that plague the adult relationships of child abuse survivors, and that are compounded by re-victimization within an intimate relationship.

    Using comparison groups of violent and non-violent couples, and women with and without histories of childhood sexual abuse, we study how people express themselves emotionally, what they report about their subjective experiences, and how they react physiologically (autonomically) during discussions with their partners.

    The initial data collection on 109 couples is finished. We are currently doing a follow-up of these couples at least one year after their visit to our laboratory. Our goal is to get a longitudinal view of how relationship violence, satisfaction, and interaction styles at one point in time relate to relationship stability and satisfaction over time.

    Ultimately, we expect that the results of this study will help us design better programs for prevention and treatment of family violence.


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