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Relationship Risks in Context: A Cumulative Risk Approach to Understanding Relationship Satisfaction


Department of Human Development and Family Studies, 203 Spidle Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849-5604 (


Risks associated with less satisfying intimate relationships often co-occur within individuals, raising questions about approaches that consider only their independent impact. Utilizing the cumulative risk model, which acknowledges the natural covariation of risk factors, this study examined individuals in intimate relationships using the Florida Family Formation Survey (n = 2,876) and a replication sample (n = 1,048). Analyses confirmed that not only was relationship satisfaction lower among those with more risks, but the cumulative risk score was predictive above and beyond the individual risk factors. Furthermore, experiencing multiple risks exacerbated the negative associations between individual risks and relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the operation of a risk factor in a relationship is moderated by the presence or absence of other risks.