University of Rochester

Study Seeks to Understand How Newlyweds Traverse the First Five Years

November 30, 2005

The early years of marriage can be a treacherous time for couples: About 40 percent of all divorces occur within the first five years, studies show. A new research project at the University of Rochester is seeking 800 couples to follow during this critical time in their relationship in order to better understand how some couples are able to make it through this period when so many fall apart or grow unhappy.

Ronald D. Rogge, assistant professor of psychology, is tracking the course of relationships during this early but high-risk stage of marriage. "This is one of the largest efforts to follow couples through this stage of marriage, and it will include a relatively comprehensive set of measures, assessing everything from how supportive spouses are to the quality of the neighborhoods they live in," Rogge says. "We know that a myriad of variablesólike how spouses treat each other, their individual personalities, and the quality of their friends and neighborsócan impact marital outcomes."

Interested couples can visit to find out more about the project. Participants will have the choice of completing short surveys online or coming to campus for a slightly longer evaluation and will be paid $10 to $20 for their time.

About 160 couples from Miami to Toronto have already answered the online survey, and on-campus interviews are starting. All couples involved in the project will be invited to participate in short yearly online follow-up surveys for the next four years.

"We will look closely at the couples who make it through this rough period still together and happy. We want to know what they might be doing differently to see how we might be able to better help couples through this period in the future," he explains. "One of the life lessons that's coming out is that humor always helps," acknowledges Rogge. "Laughing together is a good sign."

Janette Funk, lead graduate student on the project, worked with Rogge for a year to plan all aspects of the Understanding Challenges in Early Marriage Study. "I chose this research because I really want to help couples, but it is also a lot of fun working with the couples when they come into the lab," Funk says.

Rogge, who is on the faculty of the Department in Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, has other online research projects on his lab Web page ( To participant in the study or for more information, e-mail your name, telephone number, and a good time to call to or contact (585) 273-1799.