Married couples followed for a 10-year marriage study

Sarah Strobel; Sarah Strobel
Steven and Erin Tew pick out grocery items at the BYU Creamery. The CREATE research study will analyze events in the lives of couples such as this to see how they react to both small and large life events. (Sarah Strobel)

The School of Family Life will launch its Couple Relationships and Transition Experiences Project next month, featuring 11,000 couples from across the United States. The study will focus on newly married couples over a 10-year period.

“This project was designed to fill in the gaps of existing marriage research,” said academic researcher Carissa Hedquist. “So far, there have been no nationwide studies that focus on newly married couples and how they grow and change together.”

The CREATE Project is led by eight scholars specializing in family relationships. Their aim is to study the effects of various life events on marital relationships. It will begin with couples that have been married less than one year. Researchers hope to see the direct impacts of big and small life events like changes in jobs or health. The research is directed at finding links between negative and/or positive outcomes to stressful events in life.

Couples were invited to participate in the project by random selection from a list of newly married couples across the United States, based on marriage records and divorce rates from public records. The 11,000 couples participating in the study span more than 239 counties all over the United States.

“There have been no marriage and family studies this random, stratified for the whole country,” said faculty adviser Brian Bradford. “We will research couples from all over the country.”

Couples will begin the project with an initial survey about their marriages, consisting of about 400 questions about different aspects of their relationship.

The research will then focus on day-to-day married life, giving participants a chance to explain their current life events and state of their marriages every three months, determining if any major or minor life events have happened and how they have affected the relationship.

“We’re trying to understand how young, newly married couples develop virtues in their relationship,” said principle investigator Jeremy Yorgason. “There’s been a lot of research on marital satisfaction or even marital quality over time, but there really hasn’t been a whole lot looking at how couples develop positive qualities like forgiveness and kindness and commitment — different types of things that we’re calling ‘marital virtues.'”

The study aims to correlate these marital virtues with what researchers call “minor transitions.” These transitions include many different life events couples may experience, such as moving, changing jobs or graduating from college.

“If you look in the early marriage literature, a number of studies have looked at the transition to parenthood,” Yorgason said. “But other than that, nobody’s ever asked … ‘What happens when any of these more minor things happen?'”

Yorgason and his research team predict to see couples either come together during minor transitions, helping them through more significant occurrences later on, or see their relationships suffer as they struggle to establish marital values during those minor transitions.

Researchers are not recruiting couples from BYU to participate in the study. However, students from all majors are welcome to participate as researchers for this project.

“Working on this project is so much fun, and it will be a great resume builder for all students who want to join in on this amazing experience,” Hedquist said. “This will be the largest study that has ever been done of this magnitude, and we are very excited to begin getting results.”

Those who want to get involved with research for the CREATE Project can start by enrolling in Family Life research class 403R or by contacting Bradford at .

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