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 2022

Sylvia Niehuis

Research Focus

"in its various manifestations in dating, marriage, cohabitation, and romantic liaisons, the...dyad is probably the single most important type of personal relationship in the life of the individual in the history of society”-Kelley (1979)

"The quality of social relationships, including marital relationships, "constitute[s] a major risk factor for health—rivaling the effect of well established health risk factors such as cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity and physical activity”-House, Landis, and Umberson (1988)

My program of research focuses on the development of relationships within various ecological contexts, such as family, peer groups, culture, and environment. For example, I explore whether and how couples' courtship experiences bear upon their subsequent marital relationship, using dyadic, longitudinal data. I have examined how various premarital events (such as pregnancy) and courtship experiences (such as cohabitation), as well as social contexts (such as approval by family and friends), influence the likelihood and timing of marital disruption. I am also interested in how environmental changes (e.g., climate change) affect close relationships. I have also studied interpersonal psychological processes that move couples toward marriage and, in particular, the interplay between those dyadic processes and long-term marital outcomes. For instance, I have extensively studied cognitive biases. In the context of romantic relationships, I have looked at how individuals build up overly favorable perceptions of their partners' qualities 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. In addition, I have applied the concept of disillusionment in other contexts, such as the use of mobile dating apps. Currently, I study disillusionment and brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Areas of Expertise

  • Dating, courtship, and the transition to marriage
  • Idealization, partner enhancement, and disillusionment in close relationships
  • Stability and change in premarital and marital relationships
  • Antecedents and processes of divorce
  • Theoretical and methodological issues in studying family and personal relationships

Selected Peer-Reviewed Publications

Niehuis, S., Adamczyk, K., Trepanowski, R., Celejewska, A., Frydrysiak, A., Reifman, A., & Willis-Grossmann, E. (in press). Development of the Polish-Language Relationship Disillusionment Scale and its validation. Personal Relationships

Joel, S., Eastwick, P. W., ... Niehuis, S., Oldham, C. R.*, …  & Wolf, S. (2020). Machine learning uncovers the most robust self-report predictors of relationship quality across 43 longitudinal couples studies. Proceedings 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.

Weiser, D., Niehuis, S., Flora, J., Punyanunt-Carter, N., Arias, V. S., & Baird, R. (2018).  Swiping right: Sociosexuality and infidelity experience on Tinder. Personality and Individual Differences, 133, 29-33

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.

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. (2007). Convergent and discriminant validity of the Marital Disillusionment Scale. Psychological Reports, 100(1), 203-207. 

Niehuis, S., & Bartell, D. (2006). The Marital Disillusionment Scale: Development and psychometric properties. North American Journal of Psychology, 8 (1), 69-84.

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. 


Romantic and Marital Relationships Lab

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