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Intimate Pathways: Changing Patterns in Close Personal Relationships Across Time


  • *Presented as the Burgess Award address at the meetings of the National Council on Family Relations in Rochester, New York, November 2001.

**Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, 102 Gilmer Hall, P.O. Box 400400, Charlottesville, VA 22904 (


This paper presents findings from the Virginia Longitudinal Study of Divorce and Remarriage (VLSDR) describing diverse patterns of intimate relationships and personal adjustment in marriage and following divorce. Both a conflictual, unsatisfying marriage and a divorce were associated with diminished psychological, social, and physical well-being. However, it was the diversity rather than the inevitability of outcomes following divorce that was striking, with most people able to adapt constructively to their new life situation within 2–3 years following divorce, a minority being defeated by the marital breakup, and a substantial group of women being enhanced. Although both marital conflict and divorce in the family of origin elevated the risk of marital instability in young adult offspring, the effect was greater for divorce. Marriage to a supportive, well-adjusted partner by youths from divorced families eliminated the difference in marital instability found for these youths and those from nondivorced families.