Principal Investigator: Deborah M. Capaldi, Ph.D.
Co-Investigators: Hyoun Kim , Ph.D., Joann Wu Shortt, Ph.D., J. Josh Snodgrass, Ph.D.
Project Coordinator: Jane Wilson
Year Project Began: 1991
Funder: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Early mid-adulthood is a period when an increase is seen in indicators of both health risk (e.g., obesity) and poor health. Although studies of the behavioral etiology of poor health frequently focus on individual habits (e.g., diet) and general environmental risk (e.g., socioeconomic status; SES), there is little information available about the potential role of dyadic processes between romantic partners in explaining physical health outcomes in mid-adulthood. Conflictual and dysfunctional romantic relationships are a major cause of unhappiness and stress in adulthood and are associated with domestic violence, high divorce rates, psychopathology, and poor health and adjustment for the partners. Furthermore, there is evidence that some poor health habits are associated across partners. The proposed study tests a comprehensive model for couples from at-risk backgrounds on the basis of a dynamic developmental systems approach and stress and support processes to examine the risk and protective impacts of romantic relationships on health in adulthood. It is posited that both general and specific developmental and relationship risks have significant implications for health outcomes in mid-adulthood, and that effects of such risk factors are mediated by stress sensitive biological indicators of sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal functioning (cortisol and alpha amylase assayed from saliva) and lower cell-mediated immune function (Epstein-Barr Virus antibodies and C‑Reactive Protein assayed from blood spots). In addition, the course of intimate partner violence in early mid‑adulthood will be examined. We plan to continue following the young men in the Oregon Youth Study and their romantic partners. Assessments will include observation of a series of discussions, including a problem-solving discussion.
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