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OnePlusOne Research and Policy Digest – May 2015

By OnePlusOne, 05 June 2015 Behaviour change, Children, Cohabitation, Communication, Conflict, Disability, Divorce, Domestic violence, Early intervention, Employment, Fathers, Grandparents, Health, Marriage, Mental health, Money, New parents, Parenting, Separation, Sex, Strengthening relationships, Transitions, Work-life balance

OnePlusOne’s monthly roundup of the key research and policy news to emerge from the field of relationships, including the latest journal articles of interest to family and relationships practitioners and researchers.


Journal Articles


Family Background and Propensity to Engage in Infidelity

Dana A. Weiser, Daniel J. Weigel, Camille B. Lalasz andWilliam P. Evans

The current study explored how a variety of family-of-origin experiences are related to individuals’ infidelity history. A survey was completed by 294 participants and we found that parental infidelity, parental marital status, parental conflict, and parental marital satisfaction were associated with the likelihood of offspring having ever engaged in infidelity. When considered together, parent infidelity and parent satisfaction were uniquely related to offspring infidelity. Additionally, parental marital status moderated the relationship between parent infidelity and offspring infidelity, as individuals who experienced neither event were particularly unlikely to have ever engaged in infidelity. Little evidence was found that individuals’ infidelity beliefs were linked with their family-of-origin experiences or their own infidelity behavior. Results indicate that family-of-origin experiences are related to individuals’ infidelity behavior, a finding that has implications for future research as well as clinical intervention.


Mothering From Prison and Ideologies of Intensive Parenting: Enacting Vulnerable Resistance

Rafaela Granja, Manuela Ivone P. da Cunha and Helena Machado

“Intensive parenting” ideologies have been increasingly disseminated in popular culture, expert discourses, and social policy. These have impacted particularly mothers owing to their actual or presumed central role in child rearing. One of the main features of these ideologies is an increasing apportioning of rights and responsibilities to families without taking into account the resources needed to sustain the work of caring according to dominant social expectations. Drawing on 20 interviews in a Portuguese female prison, this article explores how mothering is enacted by underprivileged and criminalized women. Data show a complex web of tensions between the norms implicit in “intensive parenting” ideologies and the actual practices, which imprisoned mothers can accomplish. In their mothering from prison, women enact vulnerable resistance to the penal policies that undermine their primary role in child rearing. That is, prisoners creatively negotiate a space within which they can define themselves as “good mothers.”


Can’t get you off my mind: Relationship reflection creates cognitive load for more anxiously attached individuals

Sarah C.E. Stanton and Lorne Campbell

Attachment anxiety is characterized by rumination about romantic relationships, particularly when the attachment system is activated. Two studies investigated the hypothesis that more anxiously attached individuals would experience cognitive load when attachment concerns were activated (vs. not activated). Study 1 found that more anxious persons encountering relationship threat (vs. no threat) demonstrated greater holistic processing on a shape categorization task, a type of processing reflective of cognitive load. Study 2 found that more anxious persons encountering relationship threat (vs. no threat or academic threat) exhibited slower reaction times on a Stroop task, a pattern also reflective of cognitive load. This research lends novel insight into how attachment system activation and relationship reflection pose a cognitive vulnerability for more anxious individuals.


Committed to us: Predicting relationship closeness following nonmarital romantic relationship breakup

Kenneth Tan, Christopher R. Agnew, Laura E. VanderDrift and S. Marie Harvey

There is little research on the nature of relationships between individuals following the termination of a nonmarital romantic relationship. It is largely unknown to what extent former romantic partners remain close following breakup. The present research used the Investment Model of Commitment Processes, assessed prior to romantic breakup, to examine the closeness of post-breakup relationships. Results obtained from two waves of data collected from 143 young adults involved in romantic relationships at Time 1 and experiencing a romantic breakup by Time 2 indicated that pre-breakup romantic commitment mediated the effects of pre-breakup romantic satisfaction, investments, and alternatives on post-breakup closeness, with higher pre-breakup commitment predicting greater post-breakup closeness. Implications of these findings for understanding the underlying dynamics of ongoing interpersonal relationships and directions for future research are discussed.


Framing memories of relationship transgressions: How visual imagery perspective activates relational knowledge

Denise C. Marigold, Richard P. Eibach, Lisa K. Libby, Michael Ross and John G. Holmes

How people interpret the meaning of minor relationship transgressions can impact broader relationship well-being. It is proposed that picturing relationship transgressions from a third-person (vs. first-person) visual perspective prompts people to think of them in the context of their chronic relationship beliefs and goals. In doing so, individuals who are relatively anxious about their relationships become more insecure, whereas less anxious individuals find reassurance. In Study 1 participants pictured a transgression they committed against their partner. Individuals high in attachment anxiety made less positive evaluations of their relationships when picturing the event using a third-person rather than first-person perspective. Similar results were found when participants recalled transgressions committed by their partners against them (Study 2). These results have implications for understanding how partners move forward in their relationships after transgressions.


Blue Brides: Exploring Postnuptial Depressive Symptoms

Laura Stafford and Allison M. Scott

We conducted in-depth interviews with 28 newly married women to explore the experience of postnuptial depressive symptoms. Nearly half of the participants indicated that they felt let down or depressed following their wedding, and some participants reported clinical levels of depression. We found several stark contrasts between the bluest and the happiest brides. Blue brides described feeling uncertain in their marriages, focused on self during wedding planning, and characterized their wedding as an ending followed by unmet expectations. Happier brides expressed relational confidence, demonstrated a relational focus during wedding planning, and framed their wedding in terms of new beginnings and unexpected positive emotions. We discuss the implications of these results in terms of mental and relational health in early marriage.


Friend support of dating relationships: Comparing relationship type, friend and partner perspectives

RENÉ M. DAILEY, NICHOLAS BRODY and JESSICA KNAPP;jsessionid=7A08F440A7FB46F9753639163D32CAFC.f04t01

This study assessed the role of friends in dating relationships, comparing on–off and noncyclical relationships. Participants (N = 460) reported on the friend most familiar with their current or recent dating relationship. We examined friend support of and influence on the dating relationship and the influence of the dating relationship on the friendship. Participants’ friends (N = 98) completed a similar survey to compare participants’ and friends’ perceptions. On–off partners reported less support for the dating relationship than did noncyclical partners. On–off partners also reported greater openness, whereas friends reported greater frequency, of communicating about the dating relationship. Friends also felt the relationship changed the friendship more; friends of on–off partners in particular reported more positive change to their friendship.


Creating the Relationships We Want: Relationship Lifehacks to Share with Students

Debra J. Mashek and Jessica Borelli

So what are these lifehacks?  What concrete tips does our discipline offer for doing relationships and doing them well?  There are many (our journals and leading textbooks are treasure troves of ideas in this domain); however, for  our  purposes,  we  wanted  to  create  a short, unordered list    that    could    serve    as    the foundation  for  an  uplifting  retrospective  of  sorts  to mark   the   semester’s   end.      We   will   share   these lifehacks with students on the final day of the term as a   workshop   infused   with   reflective   writing   and discussion


Research/ Statistics


Parenting Programs sideline fathers with long-term costs for families and children

Often it isn’t easy for fathers to get involved in parenting programs. Catherine Panter-Brick, a Professor of Anthropology, Health, and Global Affairs at Yale University, found seven major barriers in parenting programs which fail to “maximize benefits to children from their fathers” in her most recent research, “Parenting programs sideline fathers with long-term costs for children.” These include cultural, institutional, professional, operational, content, resource and policy biases.


POLL: How Boomer and Millennial Couples Feel About Love and Money

The results of MONEY’s exclusive survey on the financial lives of millennial and boomer couples. Bottom line: The differences in how the two generations manage money in relationships are striking. But so, surprisingly, are the similarities.

Also some commentary on this here:  and here:


First time fathers need more support

Fathers who want to be more involved with their newborn children feel held back by lack of support from health staff, government and society, a study by Oxford University researchers has shown. The team also identified other issues such as financial and practical concerns, as well as dads’ own beliefs about what makes an ideal father.

Comment in the Telegraph here


Developing evidence-enriched practice in health and social care with older people

This is quite long but is really worth a read. Looks at how evidence can be effectively used to inform practice with very positive results. Gives some useful insights into ‘what works’ when it comes to using evidence to inform practice.


Reproducing an impact: Jon Sutton reports on Professor Susan Golombok’s talk at the Society’s Annual Conference.

Golombok, whose new book is titled ‘Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms’, has made a real, tangible difference in our understanding and acceptance of families that did not exist or were hidden from society until the latter part of 20th century. It is now possible for children to have five parents: sperm donor, egg donor, surrogate mother, and two social parents (mum and dad, or mum and mum, or dad and dad). Back in 1978, the first children born through donor insemination were met with headlines such as ‘Ban these babies!’ (London Evening News). British politician Rhodes Boyson urged: ‘this evil must stop for the sake of the potential children and society, which both have enough problems without the extension of this horrific practice’.

Against this backdrop of moral outrage, Professor Golombok set out to add a dash of ojectivity to the debate. What are these modern families really like? Does the parenting differ? What are the psychological consequences? Golombok recognised the opportunity for natural experiments on different patterns of family structures.


Policy/ Practice


Sex ed works better when it addresses power in relationships

At schools that offer comprehensive sex education, students tend to get the biology and the basics — they’ll learn about sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, how to put a condom on a banana and the like.

But some public health researchers and educators are saying that’s not enough. They’re making the case that sex ed should include discussion about relationships, gender and power dynamics.


“It seems so fair”: Implementing ‘Parents as Partners’ in the UK

Lucy Draper, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships

When Professors Phil and Carolyn Cowan first introduced their work to a UK audience, it was like a breath of fresh air for those of us working to support families with young children here. Several breaths in fact…. Firstly, the carefully-constructed, soundly evidence-based programme they brought (called ‘Supporting Father Involvement’ in the US and re-named ‘Parents as Partners’ in the UK) provided a clearly laid out curriculum for a 16-session group intervention, which managed to address all the important domains in family life – the individual, the adult relationship between the parents, each parent’s parenting strategies and their co-parenting style, intergenerational issues, and lastly, the impact of the external environment. It seems so simple, but in fact until now, the majority of support for parents has addressed at most two or three of these domains:- for example, a mother getting thoughtful help with her parenting of the child while her relationship with the child’s father went unaddressed, or a man accessing support for his mental health problems, but having no attention paid to his parenting role.

Secondly, while there is a strong emphasis in the programme on the role of the father, and the many positive outcomes for children of positive father involvement, this is not addressed in isolation. Recognising that the most salient predictor of father involvement is the quality of the father’s relationship with the mother, whether they’re together or not (Cowan et al., 2010), the Cowans have included throughout the programme a focus on strengthening the relationship between the co-parenting adults. Unusually – and quite revolutionary in itself – groups are always attended by equal numbers of men and women and co-facilitated by a man/woman pair*. As an early participant in the programme in London said: ‘I’ve been to a few parenting groups, but the thing I loved about this was that it makes you really think about both men’s and women’s point of view. It seems so fair’.

Thirdly, though as an intervention it is often compared with parenting groups such as ‘Triple P’ or ‘Incredible Years’, and though it does have a semi-manualised ‘curriculum’, in reality ‘Parents as Partners’ inhabits an unusual and very effective space somewhere between a psycho-educational parenting programme and a therapeutic group for couples.

All of which makes it a very exciting programme to be working on.


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