Understanding Relationship Quality (2014)

13 February 2014

Authors: Jenny Reynolds, Dr Catherine Houlston, Dr Lester Coleman (2014)

Although relationship quality is not part of our daily vocabulary and we may not even be familiar with the term, relationship quality is the substance of our everyday lives. Relationship quality is about good relationships, how well partners get on, and how happy they are in their relationship. It tells the story of what is going on in these different families. Why is that relevant? Good relationships matter for the health and well-being of partners and, if present, for that of their children. Relationship quality is therefore a useful indicator of a population’s well-being. It is also the aim of initiatives to support families, such as the UK coalition government’s £30 million investment in relationship support. It could and should be an aim of broader interventions to support families, such as those struggling with unemployment, parenting difficulties, caring for a partner with poor health, or looking after a child with additional needs. This support is important because difficult circumstances put substantial pressure on couple relationships. Finally, examining relationship quality is like looking under the bonnet of a car. It provides crucial insights into the mechanics of couple relationships and why some keep going while others grind to a halt.

This publication offers a timely review of the research evidence concerning relationship quality. There seems to be a growing awareness of the importance of good quality relationships and the impact troubled relationships can have on personal, social, and economic wellbeing of individuals. The scope of this review is deliberately broad. It is intended for front-line family workers, as well as policy makers and commissioners. Students, researchers, and those interested in families and relationships are also likely to find this a useful starting place for understanding more about relationship quality.

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