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My research focuses on understanding how people regulate trust and dependence in their romantic relationships, and how feelings of uncertainty or vulnerability can influence relationship stability. My work stems from the big question "What makes some couples more resilient in the face of uncertainty compared to others?" I am guided by two main research questions: 1) What are the individual differences that predict greater relationship resiliency in the face of uncertainty; and 2) Do self-regulatory systems managing responses to uncertainty outside of the relationship influence relationship regulatory responses within the relationship
Individual Differences in Response to Relationship Threats
My first line of research focuses on the individual differences in personality that make coping with feelings of vulnerability in a relationship easier for some people and more difficult for others. I am especially interested in traits such as self-esteem and/or self-control. Both self-esteem and self-control can serve as a proxy for interpersonal trust. Higher trust helps facilitate more positive responses to vulnerability (e.g., seeking connection with a partner), while lower trust often leads to more negative responses (e.g., distancing from a partner).
Activating Relationship Regulation Through Self-Regulatory Needs
My second line of research builds off of the first by extending our understanding of how relationship regulation (i.e., the motivation to seek connection or self-protection in response to relationship threats) can be activated by other self-regulatory needs. I suspect that relationship regulatory systems developed by co-opting more basic self-regulatory systems that monitor safety. I am particularly interested in understanding how activating self-regulatory systems responsible for maintaining physical homeostasis (e.g., thirst/hunger, pain management, pathogen avoidance), as well as systems designed to manage meaning can influence the way we think and feel about our romantic partners.
Gender, Sex and Sexuality in Romantic Relationships
A new line of research I’ve begun exploring examines how different experiences with gender, sex, and sexuality can impact relationship well-being. I am particularly interested in understanding how issues related to benevolent sexism and fragile masculinity negatively impact relationship well-being. I am also interested in looking at how different social goals can put women at a greater risk of sexual assault.
If you are an undergraduate, there are several ways to start getting involved and preparing for a career in research:
- University of Essex Research Experience Scheme (RES)
- University of Essex Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP)
- University of Essex Frontrunners
I am always keen to hear from postgraduate students interested in completing a research project related to my area of research. If you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student who would like to work with me, please feel free to get in touch to discuss potential projects. A list of recent student projects can be found here.
I am committed to encouraging intersectional thinking, diversity, and inclusion in my teaching, mentoring, and research.