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. This study tested 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 was 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 was examined.Year Project Began: 1991
Funder: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Deborah Capaldi, Ph.D.
Oregon Social Learning Center
Active Research Projects
Primary Research and Clinical Interests
Primary research interests include: individual, social and contextual influences on the development of psychopathology and substance use from childhood through adulthood, particularly intergenerational influences on risk and substance use; life-span antisocial and associated behaviors, including early childhood risk, child and adolescent development, delinquent and criminal behavior, health-risking sexual behavior, use of alcohol and other substances, violence, depression, and fatherhood; and adjustment of couples, including interaction patterns and aggression, stress, and effects of relationship factors on health. Additional interests include longitudinal developmental modeling and study design, and observational assessment techniques.