Intimate Relationships across the Life Span

Part II. Social and Emotional Development

  1. Lisa M. Diamond,
  2. Christopher P. Fagundes,
  3. Molly R. Butterworth

Published Online: 20 SEP 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470880166.hlsd002011

The Handbook of Life-Span Development

The Handbook of Life-Span Development

How to Cite

Diamond, L. M., Fagundes, C. P. and Butterworth, M. R. 2010. Intimate Relationships across the Life Span. The Handbook of Life-Span Development. II:11.

Author Information

  1. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 20 SEP 2010


In this chapter, we provide a comprehensive overview of current state-of-the-art research on intimate relationships, attempting to synthesize research findings within a broader life-span/developmental framework. We review key findings on the basic dynamics of romantic attachment, the development of romantic ties at different stages of life, and the multiple intrapsychic and interpersonal factors related to the quality and stability of romantic ties, including commitment, conflict, communication, jealousy, infidelity, violence, and social cognition. We also address links between relationship functioning and health-related processes over the life span, as well as special issues unique to same-sex couples. Throughout our review, we emphasize three life-span-developmental premises: First, the individual's developmental status shapes the quality and functioning of his or her intimate relationships. Through adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood, and late life, the individual's changing socioemotional capacities, goals, and motives influence the types of intimate relationships he or she desires. Second, intimate relationships shape social and psychological development. In other words, romantic relationships from adolescence to late life promote continued maturation by eliciting a changing repertoire of developmentally specific tasks and abilities. As individuals strive, from relationship to relationship, to meet their own needs and those of their partners, they become increasingly adept at balancing a complex interplay of motives, goals, and skills. Finally, because intimate relationships represent both the “outputrdquo; of prior psychosocial development and the “input” for the next stage of development, they necessarily exert cumulative and dynamic influences on mental and physical functioning over the life span.


  • romantic relationships;
  • adult attachment;
  • life span development;
  • marriage;
  • relationship satisfaction