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Mental Health Correlates and Consequences of Romantic Relationships from Adolescence through Early Adulthood

a PSC Small Fund Research Project

Investigator:   Kristin Turney

The literature about the marriage and health relationship has burgeoned in recent years, as researchers have begun to use complex methodological techniques and large, nationally representative data sets to uncover the multifaceted, bi-directional association between marriage and health. Despite these recent advancements, there are several important gaps in the literature. Perhaps most importantly, little is known about the reciprocal association between mental health and romantic relationships among the unmarried, an increasing and heterogeneous population (Bumpass and Lu 2000; Ellwood and Jencks 2004; Smock 2000). Additionally, we know even less about this link during the transition to adulthood, a period in the life course when many individuals first form serious romantic relationships. Thus, in this project, I plan to examine the association between health and romantic relationships from adolescence through early adulthood. This project will use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative, longitudinal survey of more than 20,000 youths who were in grades 7 through 12 during the 1994-1995 school year. I plan to address the following questions: First, what are the correlates of stability and change in romantic relationships from adolescence through early adulthood? Second, what are the consequences of such romantic relationships for physical health, mental health, and health behaviors? Finally, how does the bi-directional association between romantic relationships and health differ by contextual characteristics such as age, race, gender, and social class?

Funding Period: 02/01/2010 to 06/30/2011

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