Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Family Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Ronald Werner-Wilson


Research is beginning to find a positive and significant relationship between marriage and health. Even though the current literature shows that separation and divorce have strong negative consequences for the mental and physical health of both spouses (Dush & Amato, 2005), the answer to why and how this occurs has yet to be solved.

A comprehensive perspective that could greatly benefit the analysis of this connection is the use of social neuroscientific methods in a biopsychosocial model. By including biological factors, social elements, and psychological variables in analyzing marriages, researchers would be able to further understand both the intra- and interpersonal elements of a relationship and their subsequent influence on marital stability. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation was to use social neuroscientific techniques to provide a comprehensive biological, psychological, and social assessments of couples, and compare that comprehension with marital satisfaction. This was accomplished by performing three studies focused on each section of the model: heart and brain reactions for biological, familial influence for social, and personal definition of love for psychological.

The sample used for the first study involved 20 married couples that were recruited through flyers on the University’s campus and through announcements on a website (i.e., Craigslist). The participants came into the Family Interaction Resource Lab located on campus and were instructed to engage in a conflict interaction while being connected to a device used to measure heart and brain waves. The sample used for studies two and three included 635 participants that were recruited through mailouts, emails, and recruitment on a website (i.e., Facebook). These participants completed an online questionnaire using Qualtrics software and were all currently married.

The insights provided by the results helped to (1) advance current knowledge surrounding interpersonal relationships, (2) elucidate on marital conflict for therapists and educators working with couples, (3) expand upon a rarely used research procedure for analyzing relationships, and (4) build upon the extant literature across numerous disciplines.