Researcher Ashley Barr said that health benefits begin to accrue relatively quickly with high-quality relationships and supportive contexts, adding “And then we see detrimental effects from low-quality relationships – particularly, those low-quality relationships that last a long time.”
Over the last few decades, the transition into adulthood has been extended, according to Barr.
Younger people today are waiting longer to get married than those in previous generations and they’re waiting longer to finish school. During this period, they’re moving in and out of relationships. Using the Iowa Youth and Families Project, a sample of all-white youth coming from two-parent, married families in rural Iowa, Barr said that about one-third of the sample experienced relatively large changes in their relationships over a two-year period.
“We took into account satisfaction, partner hostility, questions about criticism, support, kindness, affection and commitment,” said Barr. “We also asked about how partners behave outside of the relationship. Do they engage in deviant behaviors? Is there general anti-sociality?”
Barr noted that the longer people are in high-quality relationships, or the faster they get out of low-quality relationships, the better their health. The study appears in Journal of Family Psychology.