Texas Tech University

Sylvia Niehuis, Ph.D.

Human Development and Family Sciences

Email: sylvia.niehuis@ttu.edu

Phone: (806) 834-7382

Office: HS 303B

Currently accepting graduate students for Fall 2024

SMITTEN Lab Website | Twitter

Sylvia Niehuis

Research Focus

Program of Research: My research focuses on the development of romantic relationships within various ecological contexts, such as family, peer groups, culture, and environment. For example, I explore whether and how couples' early and long-term dating experiences bear upon their subsequent long-term union or marital relationship, using data collected from both partners at multiple points in time. I have examined how various premarital events (such as pregnancy) and long-term dating experiences (such as cohabitation), as well as social contexts (such as approval by family and friends), influence the likelihood and timing of relationship/marital disruption. I am also interested in how environmental changes (e.g., climate change) affect close relationships. Much of my research has focused on interpersonal psychological processes that move couples toward marriage and the interplay between those couple processes and both short- and long-term relationship/marital outcomes. For instance, I have extensively studied how individuals build up overly favorable perceptions of their partners' qualities (i.e., idealization) and how disillusionment may later emerge as perceivers' lofty impressions of their partners succumb to the more realistic, less glamorous daily experiences of ongoing relationships. I have also applied the concept of disillusionment in other contexts, such as the use of mobile dating apps.

Methods: I have used a variety of methodologies, including surveys/questionnaires, daily diaries, semi-structured interviews, experiments, physiological assays, language analysis, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study romantic relationships. I have analyzed large national datasets of couples or individuals from various countries, where data were collected at one time or multiple times. I also have collected my own data. For example, one of my longitudinal studies is based on a local sample of Hispanic and White newly married couples. I have also been fortunate to work with colleagues who have shared their data with me (in one case, allowing a student of mine and me to study relationships of Black partners).

Areas of Expertise

  • Early and long-term dating relationships and transition to cohabitation/marriage
  • Idealization, partner enhancement, and disillusionment in close relationships
  • Computer-mediated/social-media communication in relationship formation and maintenance
  • Interpersonal and communication processes between romantic partners
  • Stability and change in relationships/marriage
  • Antecedents and processes of relationship dissolution and divorce
  • Theoretical and methodological issues in studying relationships

Awards (Selected, Past 5 Years)

  • IARR Article Award, Runner Up. Awarded second place for best article published in a journal of the International Association for Relationship Research in 2019 or 2020 out of approximately 500 eligible articles.
  • Top Four Paper Award from the Interpersonal Communication Division of the Western States Communication Association.
  • Integrated Scholar Recognition, Office of the Provost, TTU.
  • Nancy J. Bell Graduate Faculty Excellence in Mentoring Award,
  • Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. Center for Active Learning and Undergraduate Engagement, TTU.
  • Teaching Award. International Association for Relationship Research.
  • Elected Membership, Teaching Academy, TTU.
  • President's Excellence in Teaching Award. TTU.

Peer-Reviewed Publications (Selected)

Note: * = Current or Former Undergraduate or Graduate Mentee

Niehuis, S., Davis, K., Reifman, A., Callaway, K., Luempert, A., Oldham, C. R., Head, J., & Willis-Grossmann, E. (in press). Psychometric evaluation of single-item relationship satisfaction, love, conflict, and commitment measures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Machia, L., Niehuis, S., & Joel, S. (in press, published online first). Breaking up is hard to study: Two decades of dissolution research in review. Personal Relationships.

Niehuis, S., Adamczyk, K., …, & Willis-Grossmann, E.* (2021). Development of the Polish-Language Relationship Disillusionment Scale and its validation. Personal Relationships, 28, 1017-1041.

Reifman, A., Ursua-Benitez, M., Niehuis, S., Willis-Grossmann, E.*, & Thacker, M.* (2020). #HappyAnniversary: Gender and age differences in spouses' and partners' Twitter greetings. Interpersona, 14, 54-68.

Joel, S., ... Niehuis, S., Oldham, C. R.*, …  & Wolf, S. (2020). Machine learning uncovers the most robust self-report predictors of relationship quality across 43 longitudinal couples studiesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117, 19061-19071.

Niehuis, S., Reifman, A., Weiser, D., Punyanunt-Carter, N., Flora, J., Arias, V. S., & Oldham, C. R.* (2020). Guilty pleasure? Communicating sexually explicit content on dating-apps and disillusionment with app usage. Human Communication Research, 46, 55–85.

Niehuis, S., Reifman, A., & Oldham, C. R.* (2019). Effects of relationship transgressions on idealization of and disillusionment with one's romantic partner: A three-wave longitudinal study. Personal Relationships, 27, 466-489.

Niehuis, S., Reifman, A., Al-Khalil, K., Oldham, R.*, Fang, D., O'Boyle, M., & Davis, T. (2019). Functional magnetic resonance imaging activation in response to prompts of romantically disillusioning events. Personal Relationships, 26, 209-231.

Wood, W. I.*, Oldham, C. R.*, Reifman, A., & Niehuis, S. (2017). Accuracy and bias in newlywed spouses' perceptions of each other's personalities. Personal Relationships, 24, 886–901. 

Busby, D., Boden, J. S.*Niehuis, S., Reifman, A., & Fitzpatrick, J. (2017). Predicting partner enhancement in marital relationships: The family of origin, attachment, and social network approval. Journal of Family Issues, 38, 2178-2199. 

Niehuis, S., Reifman, A., Feng, D., & Huston, T. (2016). Courtship progression rate and declines in expressed affection early in marriage: A test of the disillusionment model. Journal of Family Issues, 37, 1074-1100.

Niehuis, S., Reifman, A. S., Fischer, J. L., & Lee, K.-H.* (2016). Do episodic self- and partner-uncertainty mediate the association between attachment orientations and emotional responses to relationship-threatening events in dating couples? Cognition and Emotion, 30, 1232-1245.

Niehuis, S., Reifman, A., & Lee, K.-H.* (2015). Disillusionment in cohabiting and married couples: A national study. Journal of Family Issues, 36, 951-973.

Niehuis, S., Lee, K.-H.*, Reifman, A., Swenson, A.*, & Hunsaker, S.* (2011). Idealization and disillusionment in intimate relationships: A review of theory, method, and research. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 3, 273-302.

Lee, K.-H.*, Swenson, A.*, & Niehuis, S. (2010). His or her parents? Perceived parental approval of romantic relationships among college students and their partners. Interpersona, 4(2), 213-236.

Busby, D. M., Holman, T. B., & Niehuis, S. (2009). The association between partner enhancement and self-enhancement and relationship quality outcomes. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 449-464.

Niehuis, S., Huston, T. L., & Rosenband, R.* (2006). From courtship into marriage: A new developmental model and methodological critique. Journal of Family Communication, 6, 23-47.

Miller, P. J., Niehuis, S., & Huston, T. L. (2006). Positive illusions in marital relationships: A 13-year longitudinal study. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 1579-1594.