American Psychological Foundation

Couples who grow apart over time are at higher risk for divorce, research shows, yet romantic disengagement is an understudied area of couple functioning.

APF grantee Robin A. Barry, PhD, of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, is working to expand this important area of research. Barry received a $6,000 Randy Gerson Memorial Grant in 2009 to complete her dissertation on why couples grow apart over time. Barry found that couples who tend to solve their problems individually as a way to avoid conflict with their spouse tend to have less trust and intimacy, which can lead to higher relationship distress over time.

Barry published the APF-funded research in the Journal of Family Psychology and is drafting two additional manuscripts based on the project. Barry says this line of research helped her secure her tenure-track assistant professor of psychology position at the University of Maryland.

"The publications from this research and hoped-for success with obtaining future grant support will bolster my efforts to obtain tenure," she says.

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