Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Jeffrey Applegate

Second Advisor

Ram A. Cnaan

Third Advisor

Richard A. Mackey


Mending Fences: How Heterosexual Married Individuals Perceive Breaks in Their Connection to Their Spouses, and How Couples Repair Them

Jane B. Abrams

Jeffrey Applegate, Ph.D., Supervisor

Family life in the United States is in a state of flux. Half of all marriages are ending in divorce, more couples are cohabiting and more children are being born to cohabiting and single mothers. While the meaning of marriage as an institution is shifting, most young people in the U.S. still want to marry and they marry in search of companionship and lasting love.

The field of marital therapy is in a state of flux as well. Existing theories of adult intimate relationships provide incomplete explanations of the role of conflict in marital satisfaction and longevity. Empirical studies have failed to identify any one particular set of interventions that are more effective than others in helping couples repair the breaks in their connection.

This qualitative study was intended to add to the knowledge base concerning the meaning of conflict in modern heterosexual marriages and the ways in which couples resolve their disagreements. A semi-structured interview, lasting approximately one hour, was conducted with 22 subjects who have been married between 7 and 10 years. Findings included four types of repair achieved by the subjects and their spouses and the identification of relational elements that appear to comprise relational resilience. Implications for theory, practice and social work education are discussed. Limitations included the small size and homogeneity of the study sample.

Included in

Social Work Commons