Science of Adult Relationships Laboratory

The Science of Adult Relationships Laboratory (SoAR) focuses on understanding the underlying systems that regulate the way people interact in their relationships. Drawing on some of the major theories in social psychology and personality, SoAR studies relationships across the entire span of adulthood, including the transition to young adulthood.


The science of relationships

SoAR aims to gain insight into the processes that govern the functioning of close relationships and their outcomes. Using established and cutting-edge methodological approaches, our research targets a wide variety of contexts including important life events, transitions and emerging social issues that can impact on relationships. 

We are a collaborative group of researchers with interests that reflect the broad diversity of close relationships in contemporary society. We aim to bridge the gap between science and practice by making our research accessible to academic and therapeutic communities, as well as the general public.

Our research

We guide our research by widely-studied theoretical approaches in the relationship sciences. Specifically, these are: 

  • attachment theory 
  • ideal standards model 
  • interdependence theory 
  • transactional models of stress-coping 
  • models of diathesis-stress and stress-buffering.

More recently, we have extended our theoretical lens to include models of approach-avoidance motivation and models of dehumanisation. We have also advanced our own theoretical models in relationship functioning and relationship acceptance.

While we integrate various theoretical approaches within our different areas of research, our research is predominantly framed from an attachment theory perspective. Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969/1982) is a theory of human bonding that was developed to explain how infants and young children adjusted to prolonged separation from, or the loss of, a primary caregiver (often their mother). 

Since then, attachment theory has been applied to the study of many different types of close relationships and has become one of the most widely applied theories to the study of adult relationships (Gillath, Karantzas, & Fraley, 2016). To this end, attachment theory serves as a rich framework in which to scientifically study adult relationships.

Focus areas

Evaluating relationship partners

Drawing primarily on the ideal standards model of relationships, this research focuses on understanding how people’s perceptions of their romantic partners against their ideals shape the way they think, feel and behave in their relationships. We are especially interested in the factors that predict perceptions of one’s partner as living up to, or falling short of one’s ideals, and the consequences of these perceptions.

The dark side of romantic relationships

This research investigates aspects of romantic relationships that are seen as negative or harmful to both the functioning of a relationship and the wellbeing of romantic partners. Examples of such behaviours include sexual coercion and interpersonal dehumanisation. 

Although this area of research can include extreme and very explicit instances of negative relationship behaviours, such as physical abuse, we focus more on the subtle expressions of these phenomena. We are interested in the everyday occurrences and outcomes of these negative relationship behaviours, as well as the individual differences and situational factors that affect people’s propensity to either be the perpetrator or victim of negative interpersonal behaviour.

The impact of life transitions

This research focuses on how major life transitions influence people’s romantic, familial and peer relationships. Whether disruptions to relationships, as a function of life transitions, produce particular negative adjustment or mental health outcomes. 

We are also interested in understanding how life transitions can benefit relationships and the factors that protect against deterioration in relationships as a function of major life transitions and stressors.

Chronic illness and ageing families

This research explores how relationship processes help to explain how individuals, couples and families cope with the stressors and challenges associated with experiencing chronic illness and having to care for an older parent. 

We place emphasis on understanding how care and support are provided within couples and families, as well as the factors that predict how people respond to giving and receiving support. We also investigate the mental health and relationship consequences of chronic illness and aged care in couples and families.

Our research in this area has been funded by beyondblue and, most recently, the Australian Research Council.

The interplay between behavioural systems

This research focuses on how the major systems of behaviour that govern human interaction jointly determine relationship functioning and how people respond to relationship threats and stressors. We specifically focus on how the attachment, caregiving and sexual behavioural systems operate to influence couple's issues related to partner support, conflict and sexual functioning. 

In recent years we have also begun to investigate how systems associated with managing reward and punishment influence behaviours and motivations in relationships.

Our members

SoAR Director
Gery Karantzas

Members

Adjunct members

Name
Lorne Campbell
University of Western Ontario
Carolyn Cutrona
Iowa State University
Judith Feeney
University of Queensland
Julie Fitness
Macquarie University
R. Chris Fraley
University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
Omri Gillath
University of Kansas
Nick Haslam
University of Melbourne
Marita McCabe
Institute for Health and Ageing, Australian Catholic University
Nickola Overall
University of Auckland
Daniel Russell
Iowa State University
Jeffry Simpson
University of Minnesota
Ross Wilkinson
University of Newcastle

Our publications

Scholarly books

  • Noller, P., & Karantzas, G.C. Eds. (2012). Wiley-Blackwell handbook of couples and family relationships. New York: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Gillath, O., Karantzas, G.C., & Fraley, R.C. (2016) Adult attachment: A concise introduction to theory and research. New York: Elsevier.

Scholarly book chapters

  • Karantzas, G.C. (2012). Family caregiving: perspectives of adult children and older parents. In P. Noller & G.C. Karantzas (Eds.), Wiley-Blackwell handbook of couples and family relationships (pp.82-96). New York: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Karantzas, G.C., McCabe, M.P., & Cole, S.F. (2012). Chronic illness and relationships. In P. Noller & G.C. Karantzas (Eds.), Wiley-Blackwell handbook of couples and family relationships (pp.406-420). New York: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Karantzas, G.C., & Noller, P. (2012). Common themes in couple and family relationship research and practice. In P. Noller & G.C. Karantzas (Eds.), Wiley-Blackwell handbook of couples and family relationships (pp. 469-480). New York: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Noller, P., & Karantzas, G.C. (2012). Linking research, therapy and practice to couple and family relationships: An introduction. In P. Noller & G.C. Karantzas (Eds.), Wiley-Blackwell handbook of couples and family relationships (pp.1-8). New York: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Sturmey, R.I., Noller, P., & Karantzas, G.C. (2012). A common factors perspective of relationship counseling. In P. Noller & G.C. Karantzas (Eds.), Wiley-Blackwell handbook of couples and family relationships (pp.305-319). New York: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Karantzas, G.C. (2013). Attraction and intimacy. In D. Myers, Social psychology, 10th ed (pp. 390-439). Melbourne: McGraw-Hill.
  • Gillath, O., & Karantzas, G.C. (2015). Formation of attachment bonds: Using management of social networks to understand attachment. In C. Hazan & V. Zayas, Eds., Bases of adult attachment: From brain to mind to behaviour (pp.131-156). New York: Springer
  • Gillath, O., & Karantzas, G.C. (2015), Attachment security and prosocial behavior. In D. Carroll, A. Patrick, & G. Kenwick, Eds., Handbook of personal security (pp.159-171). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Karantzas, G.C., & Simpson, J.A. (2015). Attachment and aged care. In J.A. Simpson & W.S. Rholes, Eds., Attachment theory and research: New directions and emerging themes (319-345). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Karantzas, G.C. (In press). Couple caregiving. In J.A. Fitzgerald (Ed.), Foundations for couples’ therapy: Research for the real world. Oxford: Routledge.

Refereed journal articles

  • Lawrence, J. A., Goodnow, J. J., Woods, K., & Karantzas, G. (2002). Distributions of caregiving tasks among family members: The place of gender and availability. Journal of Family Psychology, 16, 493-509.
  • Goodnow, J.J., Lawrence, J.A., Ryan, J., Karantzas, G.C., & King, K. (2002). Extending studies of collaborative cognition by way of care giving situations. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 26, 16-25.
  • Karantzas, G.C., & Noller, P. (2009). Positive pathways for couples and families: Meeting existing and emerging challenges of relationships. Dialogue, 28, 82-87.
  • Karantzas, G.C., Evans, L., & Foddy, M. (2010). The role of attachment in current and future parent caregiving. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Science, 65B, 573-580.
  • Karantzas, G.C., Feeney, J.A., & Wilkinson, R.B. (2010). Does less mean more? A confirmatory factor analytic study of the Attachment Style Questionnaire and the Attachment Style Questionnaire – Short Form. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27, 749-780.
  • Renzaho, A.M.N., & Karantzas, G. (2010). Effects of parental perception of neighbourhood deprivation and family environment characteristics on pro-social behaviours among 4-to-12 year old children. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 34, 405-411.
  • Karantzas, G.C., & Cole, S.F. (2011). Arthritis and support seeking tendencies: The role of attachment. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30, 404-440.
  • Karantzas, G.C., Goncalves, V.C., Feeney, J.A., & McCabe, M.P. (2011). Investigating gender differences in romantic relationships. Family Relationships Quarterly, 18, 6-9. (Invited paper).
  • Thomas, A., Allen, F., Philips, J., & Karantzas, G.C. (2011). Gaming machine addiction: The role of avoidance, social support and accessibility. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 25, 738-744.
  • Karantzas, G.C., Feeney, J.A., Goncalves, C.V., & McCabe, M.P. (2014). Towards an integrative attachment-based model of relationship functioning. British Journal of Psychology, 105, 413-434. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12047
  • Karantzas, G.C., Karantzas, K.M., McCabe, M.P., Campbell, H., Pizzirani, B., & Mullins, E.R. (2015). Attachment orientation and sexual coercion: A systematic review. Archives of Sexual Behavior, First online, 1-16.
  • Connaughton, C., McCabe, M.P., & Karantzas, G.C. (2016). Conceptualization of the sexual response models in men: Are there differences between sexually functional and dysfunctional men? Journal of Sexual Medicine, 13, 453-463.
  • Feeney, J.A., & Karantzas, G.C. (in press). Couple conflict: Insights from an attachment perspective. Current Opinion in Psychology.
  • Karantzas, G.C. & Gillath, G.C. (in press). Stress and wellbeing during chronic illness and partner death in later-life: The role of social support. Current Opinion in Psychology
  • Karantzas, G.C., McCabe, M.P, & Simpson, J.A. (in press). Introduction. Current Opinion in Psychology.

Resources for researchers

SoAR provides various resources for researchers interested in conducting studies on the topic of relationships. Listed below are measures widely used in the science of relationships, as well as links to various journal articles and texts.

Measures used in the study of romantic relationships

Commitment (measures of structural and process models of commitment)

  • The Revised Commitment Scale (Owen et al., 2010)
  • The Investment Model Scale (Rusbult et al., 1998)

Relationship quality

  • The Perceived Relationship Quality Components (PRQC) Questionnaire (Fletcher et al., 2000)

Communication and conflict

  • Communication Patterns Questionnaire – Short Form (CPQ-SF, Futris et al., 2010)
  • The Conflict Communication Inventory (CCI, Sanford, 2010)

Intimacy

  • Intimate Safety Questionnaire (ISQ, Cordova et al., 2005)

Trust

  • The Trust Scale (Rempel et al., 1985)

Social support

  • The Social Provisions Scale (Cutrona & Russell, 1987)
  • Marital Support Measure (MSM, Doucet & Aseltine, 2003)

Attachment

  • Experiences in Close Relationships Scale (ECR, Brennan et al., 1998)
  • Experiences in Close Relationships – Relationship Structures Questionnaire (ECR-RS, Fraley et al., 2011)
  • Adult Attachment Questionnaire (AAQ, Simpson et al., 1996)
  • Attachment Style Questionnaire – Short Form (ASQ-SF, Karantzas et al., 2010)
  • State Adult Attachment Measure (SAAM, Gillath et al., 2009)

Publications of interest

  • Gillath, O. Karantzas, G.C., & Fraley, R.C. (2016) Adult attachment: A concise introduction to theory and research. Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P.R. (2016). Adult attachment: Structure, dynamics and change (2nd Ed). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Cassidy, J., & Shaver, P.R. (2016). Handbook of adult attachment: Theory, research and clinical applications (3rd ed). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Simpson, J.A. & Rholes, W.S. (2015). Attachment theory and research: New directions and emerging themes. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Perlman D., & Vangelisti, A. (2006). The Cambridge handbook of personal relationships. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Noller, P., & Karantzas, G.C. (2012). The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of couples and family relationships. Oxford:Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Current Opinion in Psychology (2015), volume 1: Relationship science.
  • Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1994). Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationships. Psychological inquiry, 5(1), 1-22.
  • Fletcher, G. J., Simpson, J. A., Thomas, G., & Giles, L. (1999). Ideals in intimate relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology, 76(1), 72.
  • Fletcher, G. J., Simpson, J. A., & Thomas, G. (2000). The measurement of perceived relationship quality components: A confirmatory factor analytic approach. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26(3), 340-354.
  • Hazan, C., & Shaver, P.R. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.
  • Karantzas, G. C., Feeney, J. A., Goncalves, C. V., & McCabe, M. P. (2014). Towards an integrative attachment‐based model of relationship functioning. British Journal of Psychology, 105(3), 413-434.
  • Karantzas, G. C., Feeney, J. A., & Wilkinson, R. (2010). Is less more? Confirmatory factor analysis of the Attachment Style Questionnaires. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27(6), 749-780.
  • Fraley, R. C., Vicary, A. M., Brumbaugh, C. C., & Roisman, G. I. (2011). Patterns of stability in adult attachment: An empirical test of two models of continuity and change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 974-992.
  • Fraley, R. C., Heffernan, M. E., Vicary, A. M., & Brumbaugh, C. C. (2011). The Experiences in Close Relationships-Relationship Structures questionnaire: A method for assessing attachment orientations across relationships. Psychological Assessment, 23, 615-625
  • Fraley, R. C. (2002). Attachment stability from infancy to adulthood: Meta-analysis and dynamic modeling of developmental mechanisms. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6, 123-151.
  • Doherty, N. A., & Feeney, J. A. (2004). The composition of attachment networks throughout the adult years. Personal Relationships, 11(4), 469-488.
  • Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, methods, and research. Psychological bulletin, 118(1), 3.
  • Howland, M., & Simpson, J. A. (2010). Getting in under the radar a dyadic view of invisible support. Psychological Science, 21, 1878-1885.
  • Le, B., & Agnew, C. R. (2003). Commitment and its theorized determinants: A meta–analysis of the Investment Model. Personal Relationships, 10(1), 37-57.
  • Le, B., Dove, N. L., Agnew, C. R., Korn, M. S., & Mutso, A. A. (2010). Predicting nonmarital romantic relationship dissolution: A meta‐analytic synthesis. Personal Relationships, 17(3), 377-390.
  • Rafaeli, E., Cranford, J. A., Green, A. S., Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2008). The good and bad of relationships: How social hindrance and social support affect relationship feelings in daily life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1708-1713.
  • Simpson, J. A., Rholes, W. S., & Nelligan, J. S. (1992). Support seeking and support giving within couples in an anxiety-provoking situation: The role of attachment styles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(3), 434-446.
  • Feeney, B. C., & Collins, N. L. (2014). A new look at social support A theoretical perspective on thriving through relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Review, online first, 1-35.
  • Girme, Y. U., Overall, N. C., & Simpson, J. A. (2013). When visibility matters short-term versus long-term costs and benefits of visible and invisible support. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1441-1454.
  • Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J., Simpson, J. A., & Sibley, C. G. (2009). Regulating partners in intimate relationships: the costs and benefits of different communication strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(3), 620-639.
  • Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J., & Simpson, J. A. (2006). Regulation processes in intimate relationships: the role of ideal standards. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(4), 662-688.
  • Simpson, J. A., & Overall, N. C. (2014). Partner buffering of attachment insecurity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 54-59.

Participate in our research

Our research projects cover a diverse array of relationship topics and we are constantly looking for participants to be involved. Your contribution helps shape our understanding of relationships and how to develop practical knowledge that helps strengthen and enrich couple and family relationships.

Relationship processes over time

This study aims to examine the functioning of couples over time. We are seeking both heterosexual and same sex couples who are over 18 years of age and have been in a romantic relationship for at least three months.

Participants will be required to complete four online questionnaires about their relationship experiences across a 12 month period. Each questionnaire will take approximately 25 minutes to complete. If both partners complete 75% of the online surveys, each will be eligible for a $10 Coles gift voucher.

For more information about this study, please download the participant information sheet (PDF, 257.3 KB)

Take part in this study

Observational study of romantic couples

The purpose of this study is to investigate how people’s attitudes and behaviours predict their interactions in romantic relationships. We are seeking heterosexual couples who are over 18 years of age and have been in a romantic relationship for at least six months.

Participants will be taken to an automated booking service to select a suitable time to attend a session at Deakin's Melbourne Burwood Campus. On arrival, participants will be asked to independently complete a series of online questionnaires about romantic relationships. Following this, they will participate in two communication tasks that will be video recorded. Finally, all couples will receive a short debrief about the study, as well as a $50 gift certificate. Participation in the study should take approximately 1.5 hours.

For more information about this study, please download the participant information sheet.

This study is no longer taking participants in 2016.

Contact us

Director, SoAR
Gery Karantzas
+61 3 9244 6959
Email Gery Karantzas