Exploring the science behind relationships

The Shackleton Relationships Project is funding a year-long research studentship examining why relationships succeed or fail.

This is a funded one year Masters by Research Studentship linked to the Shackleton Relationships Project and the Network on Family, Regulation and Society based at the Law School, University of Exeter.

Supported by Baroness Fiona Shackleton (Law, 1977), the award covers both tuition fees and a maintenance allowance for living expenses and accommodation for a 12 month period.

The Shackleton Relationships Project explores why relationships succeed and fail, and considers what type of relationship educational tool(s) might help young people to make better decisions in this area.

The Masters by Research student will support the project through literature reviews, interviews with divorce practitioners and long-term couples, and analysis of research findings. They will also have the opportunity to attend events, access training and mentoring, and build relationships with industry practitioners.

The study will build on existing research by a member of the research team, Dr Jan Ewing, who previously interviewed 52 couples three times during the first four years of marriage to examine what drives thriving relationships and what leads to the erosion of marital satisfaction in the first few years after a wedding. She found having a strong friendship, dealing early and effectively with conflict, good communication and the ability to see the best in your partner are key. Dr Ewing will now revisit these couples after 10 years of marriage to see whether this holds true in the longer term.

I have seen first-hand the tragedy of family separation, and I have often observed that divorce might be avoided if people, before they make a life-long commitment to each other, asked themselves more searching questions about how suitable or compatible they are. Of course big change and life events also put strain on relationships and knowing more about what builds resilience in relationships is vital.

I’m delighted to support this project, which will provide much-needed evidence and resources for people so they can build strong relationships. My ambition is to use this evidence in a practical and meaningful way by introducing it into schools possibly by way of a short video and/or app on telephones so that it could form part of the school curriculum, like sex education and drug and alcohol abuse and to enable it to reach as wide an audience of young people as is possible. In doing this, this would become part of early intervention or pre intervention.

Baroness Fiona Shackleton

This studentship is offering me an important opportunity to be part of a ground-breaking, impactful research project… As a mature student with children I wouldn’t have been able to take this step without your support. Thank you.

Sharon Blake, Shackleton Scholar 2017