Close Relationships Laboratory 


Daily Relationship and Family Processes




Much of our research employs daily diaries, experience sampling methodology (ESM) and an innovative portable recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR). Using these methods, we examine how the ways in which couples and families behave in everyday life are linked to relationship quality and physical health. For example, how do satisfied couples differ from unsatisfied couples in the ways they talk in everyday life? And how do parent-child interactions at home impact how happy and healthy children are during adolescence? By unobtrusively observing how couples and families talk in their natural settings, we can test previously developed theories of social psychological processes and push relationship science in new and exciting directions. Click here to read a related article from the Chronicle of Higher Education about this research.

Our investigations of daily relationship processes can be grouped into 3 distinct but related areas. First, we examine the nature of self-disclosure in everyday interactions; specifically, we look at how self-disclosure (opening up to another person about one's thoughts and feelings) is linked to relationship quality and stability. Second, we examine how the specific words that people use in their daily conversations are associated with the quality of their relationships (e.g, Slatcher, Vazire & Pennebaker, 2008). Third, we examine how daily marital and parent-child interactions are linked to fluctuations in stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) and changes in physical health (e.g., Slatcher, Robles, Repetti & Fellows, 2010 and Slatcher & Robles, 2012).

Daily Stressors and Cortisol among Children in Rural China affected by HIV 

In an NIH-sponsored project (R01NR013466) that we are collaborating on with Dr. Xiaoming Li at Wayne State and Dr. Jun-Feng Zhao at Henan University, we are testing the effectiveness of a resilience-based psychosocial intervention in improving the health and well-being of children in rural China affected by HIV/AIDS (children with one or both parents who are HIV+). The efficacy of the intervention is being evaluated over 36 months through a cluster randomized controlled trial with 800 HIV/AIDS-affected children (8 to 11 years of age) and their primary caregivers. Our lab is overseeing aspects of the project relating to everyday stressors, social interactions and diurnal cortisol. We are testing whether the intervention will lead to improvements in children's daily mood, social interactions and "healthier" diurnal cortisol patterns in the short and long term.

Everyday Stressors and Diabetes Management among Adolescents and Young Adults

In collaboration with Dr. Deborah Ellis at Wayne State, we are investigating the links between social relationships, stress and diabetes management in everyday life. The goal of this NIH-sponsored study (1DP3DK097717-01) is to develop a potent diabetes management intervention for older adolescents and young adults aged 16-20 with Type-1 diabetes (T1D) using a phased approach to intervention development. In Phase 1, we are using the EAR to identify stressors that affect diabetes mangagment and dibetes-related biomarkers (including diurnal cortisol and HbA1c). In Phase 2, we will use this data to adapt existing CBT interventions previously used to treat T1D to increase their efficacy. We will also adapt a mindfulness approach (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction; MBSR) to test its efficacy in improving T1D-related outcomes compared to CBT and an attention control condition.







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