A dyadic analysis of relationships and health: does couple-level context condition partner effects?

J Fam Psychol. 2014 Aug;28(4):448-59. doi: 10.1037/a0037310.


Adding to the growing literature explicating the links between romantic relationships and health, this study examined how both couple-level characteristics, particularly union type (e.g., dating, cohabiting, or marriage) and interracial pairing, and interpersonal characteristics (e.g., partner strain and support), predicted young adults' physical and mental health. Using dyadic data from a sample of 249 young, primarily Black couples, we hypothesized and found support for the importance of couple-level context, partner behavior, and their interaction in predicting health. Interracial couples (all Black/non-Black pairings) reported worse health than monoracial Black couples. Union type, however, did not directly predict health but was a significant moderator of partner strain. That is, the negative association between partner strain and self-reported health was stronger for cohabiting and married couples versus their dating counterparts, suggesting that coresidence, more so than marital status, may be important for understanding partner effects on physical health. For psychological distress, however, partner support proved equally beneficial across union types.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black People / psychology*
  • Family Characteristics / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marital Status / ethnology
  • Marriage / ethnology
  • Mental Health / ethnology
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Young Adult