What do we do?
We are the Couple and Family Enhancement lab!
Kelley Quirk, Ph.D. – Director
Our mission is to contribute to the research literature so we can know more about inter- and intra-personal relationships. See our present studies below as well as previous publications.
The Couple And Family Enhancement Lab is led by principal investigator Dr. Kelley Quirk. Kelley and her research team are interested in exploring romantic relationships from two angles. First, from a prevention angle, where we examine early danger signs of unhealthy relationships, as well as biomarkers of relational distress. Second, from an intervention angle, where we examine processes of change in couple and family therapy, seeking to identify factors critical to positive relational outcomes in psychotherapy.
Meet the CAFE Team
How to Get Involved
Become a research assistant:
Are you wanting to get involved as a research assistant? Please contact Dr. Kelley Quirk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include any of your prior experience in the field as well as any previous experience working in a research lab(s). Questions or concerns are always welcome.
Volunteer as a research participant:
Are you wanting to be contribute to our research? Please contact Dr. Kelley Quirk at email@example.com or access the desired study for class credit through the designated channels. If you email us, please include your name, age, and with which study you wish to participate. Questions or concerns are always welcome.
CAFE Lab Current Studies
The Role of Mindfulness in Detecting Romantic Relationship Danger Signs
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Specific behaviors and communication expressions in romantic relationships have previously been linked to poor relationship functioning and divorce.
What this study aims to do- This study will examine the role of mindful practices on the detection of danger signs expressed between couples in video vignettes.
LGBT Mental and Physical Health in the Current Sociopolitical Environment
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender report higher instances of mental and physical health concerns.
What this study aims to do- This study will explore the impact of perceptions of the sociopolitical climate on the well-being of LGBT individuals.
Couple Conflict and Telomere Length
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Conflict in romantic relationships has been shown to be associated with negative mental health experiences for individuals. However, little is known about the impact of couple conflict on physical health.
What this study aims to do- This study will examine one indicator of physical health, telomere length, and its association with couple conflict. In addition, the telomere length of the couple’s child(ren) will be examined as it relates to parental conflict.
Individual and Relational Wellbeing in Young Adults
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Young adulthood is a formative developmental phase wherein individuals are developing their expectations and schemas for healthy relationships.
What this study aims to do- This study explores the impact of attachment, religiosity, and indicators of well-being on relationship formation and functioning.
Partner Attributions and Prosocial Behavior
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Romantic relationships are a cornerstone of health and happiness for many individuals. However, the attributions one makes about partner behaviors may influence relationship satisfaction.
What this study aims to do- In this study, we investigate the role of attributions of prosocial behaviors of partners and the moderating effect of depression.
Contemplative Processes and Relationship Satisfaction
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Contemplative practices have been shown to be associated with positive individual and relational wellbeing. The most common forms of contemplative practices are mindfulness and prayer.
What this study aims to do- This study aims to fill the gap in the literature by examining how these similar, but distinct, forms of contemplative practices differentially contribute to individual functioning and relationship satisfaction.
Mindfulness in Relationship Education
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Empirical evidence supports the impact of relationship education programs on positive romantic relationship functioning. Additionally, mindful practice has been shown to be associated with healthy romantic relationship outcomes. Despite these findings, little is known about how the interaction between mindfulness and relationship education will impact relational processes.
What this study aims to do- This study examines differences in outcomes for individuals by randomly assigning them to a standard relationship education program. Those assigned to a relationship education program will also have a mindfulness component infused.
Sibling Relationships as a Protective Factor for Romantic Relationship Success
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- A large body of literature has consistently highlighted the negative effect of parental divorce on adult children’s romantic relationship functioning. However, the quality of the parental relationship and the quality of sibling relationships in the home as moderators have not yet been tested.
What this study aims to do- This study examines these variables (quality of parental and sibling relationships) as possible protective factors for adult romantic relationships.
Unawareness of Romantic Relationship Danger Signs
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Specific behaviors and communication styles have been empirically linked to poor relational processes and outcomes. However, the individual variability in the detection of these danger signs has not yet been explored.
What this study aims to do- This study establishes a theoretical framework for individual variability in danger sign detection. In addition, convergent and discriminant variables will be tested alongside detection variability to further understand this important and understudied dynamic.
Couple Intersession Processes
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Psychotherapy has been shown to produce largely positive outcomes for a range of presenting problems. Studies have shown that there are important processes that occur in therapy sessions that influence these outcomes. However, what happens between therapy sessions may be just as important as what happens in the session. Evidence has shown that, for individuals, between session thoughts and activities (related to those presented in session) greatly improve therapeutic outcomes. However, no studies have examined these session processes for couples who are attending therapy.
What this study aims to do- This study establishes and tests a measure of couple-level between session processes, as well as examining the association with preliminary outcomes.
Meaning of Conflict in Romantic Relationships
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Conflict in romantic relationships have been consistently associated with poor relational and individual functioning. However, the meaning that individuals assign to the conflict may play an important, and untested, role.
What this study aims to do- This study establishes the first measure of the meaning of conflict and explores its association with relationship satisfaction and wellbeing.
Learn More Upcoming Studies
Attachment Priming and Danger Sign Detection
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Specific behavioral and communication expressions in romantic relationships have been shown to be linked to poor relationship functioning and outcomes. However, the influential role of attachment styles within these romantic relationships has not yet been explored in this context.
What this study aims to do- In this study, we will randomize individuals to an attachment priming condition and explore differences in danger sign detection.
Alliance Sensitivity Measure
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- The therapeutic alliance has been shown to be one of the most significant predictors of psychotherapy processes and outcomes. However, measurement of the alliance has long suffered from ceiling effects, with clients often responding to alliance items based on a general feeling about their therapist.
What this study aims to do- This study will develop and test a new measure of the therapeutic alliance; seeking to establish a more sensitive assessment of the alliance and the natural, and likely, fluctuations over the course of treatment.
Danger Sign Trigger Words
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Couple conflict often involve behavioral or communication expressions that have been empirically linked to poor romantic relationship functioning and outcomes. These danger signs have an established literature base in terms of defining their manifestation, however, no studies have yet examined the specific words that may be linked to these expressions.
What this study aims to do- This study will test individuals’ perceptions of the words associated with the expressions of specific danger signs.
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- The way in which therapists show up in the therapy room has been shown to be significantly related to therapy processes and outcomes. Traditionally, this has been examined as the therapeutic alliance which includes the bond between clients and therapist, and the agreement on the tasks and goals for therapy. However, one important component of the therapist presence is the degree to which they are being mindfully present in the room with the client. To date, there is no measure of therapist mindfulness.
What this study aims to do- This study will establish such a measure, as well as test its association with outcomes rated by client and therapist.
Psychotherapy and Biomarkers
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations- Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective for a wide range of mental health concerns. However, little is known about how psychotherapy may also impact physical health.
What this study aims to do- This study will examine how naturalistic therapy impacts physical indicators of health (such as telomere length, cortisol, and blood pressure).