When Professor Bernie O’Brien and I had a discussion in the mid 1980’s about our mutual interests in pursuing an interdisciplinary research project that would resonate with strengths in teaching clinical courses and our lengthy experiences in the practice of psychotherapy with individuals and couples, we explored several areas and eventually decided to focus on couples that stayed together for many years. In particular, we were curious about couples that had stayed together without the support of professional intervention. As we explored our interests, we kept coming back to the question that shaped the research: How do couples adapt in various aspects of their relationships over the years? A review of the existing literature revealed several gaps in the design of studies. For instance, little research had been done on exploring how older couples that had been together for many years adapted to each other at various times in their relationships. Most studies focused on white, heterosexual middle class couples that usually had been married for a few years. Also, studies tended toward the quantitative pole on the research continuum, using questionnaires and scales to measure aspects of relationships, with only a few studies using a qualitative mode of data collection. Our interest was in exploring through in-depth interviews how individual partners viewed different aspects of their relationships. Finally, there was little research on the relationships of same sex couples that had remained together for many years. As the project unfolded, we added same sex couples to our research.
We designed our research to explore how individual partners in relationships that had lasted at least 15 years adapted in various dimensions of their lives together. Interviews elicited how partners in these relationships viewed their own and their partners’ ways of dealing with conflict, sexuality, intimacy, decision-making and several other components of their relationships. We purposively recruited subjects to the project that were often neglected in other studies: people of color, lower income couples, lesbian and gay couples. By the end of data collection, 216 interviews had been conducted with partners in 108 relationships that had lasted an average of 30 years.
This research represented a joint effort by the Graduate School of Social Work and the Lynch School of Education. We are indebted to many people but want to acknowledge those students in the doctoral program of the Department of Counseling and Developmental Psychology who conducted the interviews. We also want to thank the professional librarians at the O’Neil Library for their contributions in adapting our research files for incorporation into the electronic archives at Boston College.
Included in this archive are the following:
The archive is part of the institutional repository at Boston College (eScholarship@BC), and has universal open access to researchers, faculty, students and others with an interest in understanding how couples adapt in relationships that last. It is valuable data and, as supporters of open access to scholarship and the data underlying scholarship, we believe that there should be few if any barriers to accessing it. Consequently, when planning to digitize this archive it was a primary goal from the outset to make the material freely available.
All identifying information about participants in this research project that might compromise privacy has been deleted or disguised.
The Lasting Relationships Research Data Archive, providing access to the research work of Richard A. Mackey, Eileen F. Mackey and Bernard A. O’Brien, is the first Boston College scholarly data set to be deposited in eScholarship@bc. Bringing this project to fruition has been the result of a strong collaborative effort between Professor Mackey and various members of the Boston College Libraries and Information Technologies Services staffs. This work will have long-term benefits for future data deposition projects here at Boston College in a variety of areas, including setting standards for work with confidential data in consultation with the Boston College Office of Research Integrity and Compliance, choice of archival formatting options for the raw data, overall organization of the files and creation of the codebook, and in development of the metadata needed for optimal discovery by others at Boston College and beyond. If you are interested in depositing data in eScholarship@bc, please contact either your library liaison or Jane Morris, Scholarly Communications Librarian. For assistance with research analysis tools, contact Research Services, Information Technology Services.