Relationship Risks in Context

A Cumulative Risk Approach to Understanding Relationship Satisfaction

Published In: Journal of Marriage and Family, v. 70, no. 5, Dec. 2008, p. 1122-1135

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2008

by Amy Rauer, Benjamin Karney, Cynthia W Garvan, Wei Hou

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.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.