About MARSH Lab

In MARSH Lab, we take a biopsychosocial approach to understand how close relationships, particularly parent-child and romantic relationships, affect stress and physical health. Our relationships with others can help buffer us from stress when they’re going smoothly, but low quality relationships can also create stress, and both sides have implications for physical health. Specifically, we are interested in how stress and relationships affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and inflammatory processes. Through multi-method studies utilizing observational, self-report, and biological measures, we aim to uncover how close relationships get “under the skin” and stay with us throughout our lifespans in order to inform translational research.

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Psychological mechanisms linking relationships and health

The mere act of talking with a relationship partner, whether that conversation is supportive or contentious, is unlikely to have direct biological effects. Instead, the ways in which we interpret and internalize these interactions are likely to lead to psychological or behavioral changes that affect biological functioning. However, these psychological mechanisms have been understudied. We test theoretically-proposed mechanisms of relationship-health links, such as emotion and attachment orientations, to determine whether these may be good targets for future interventions.

potential for relationships to combat health disparities

Individuals with low socioeconomic status and people of color are at risk for experiencing poor health outcomes. Although major policy and structural changes are needed to reduce these disparities, there may also be effective smaller-scale interventions. We test the effects of race and SES (and the stressors associated with them) on relationship functioning and health to explore whether maintaining high quality relationships in the face of uncertainty and discrimination can help individuals build resources for coping, be less reactive to stress, and live healthier lives.

Logo design by Emily Cara

Logo design by Emily Cara