Predicting Relationship Success

happy coupleFor nearly 20 years, Family and Child Studies Professor Constance Gager has drawn on the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) to explore the quality of marital relationships, focusing on whether couples’ perceptions about the division of household labor, relationship happiness, sexual frequency and relationship conflict predict the likelihood of divorce. Her recent study conducted with Scott Yabiku of Arizona State University, for example, found that husbands and wives who spend more time on housework enjoy more frequent sex. “We concluded that couples who work hard also play hard,” Gager says. “These couples may be tapping into an underlying trait of being high-energy go-getters.”

Most recently, with grant funding from The National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, Gager has collaborated with Yabiku as well as Family and Child Studies department colleague Miriam Linver to examine the long-term effects of parental conflict on adult children’s relationship success. Their research refutes the idea that parents should stay together for the sake of the children—at least when there is a high level of parental conflict. “We’re surmising that long-term exposure to parental conflict is more detrimental to children’s adult relationship outcomes than divorce,” Gager says.