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Psychology major Jamie Jacobs ’03 (Margate City, N.J.) will present her research about the link between marital relationships and depression at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 22-25.

“My research has to do with marital relationships and ‘marital processes’ and how they influence depression in different age groups,” says Jacobs, who is doing her research through an independent study with Jamila Bookwala, assistant professor of psychology. Jacobs worked with data from the National Survey of Families and Households conducted by the Center for Demography and Ecology.

The “marital processes” are specific negative events or conditions that characterize a marriage, she explains, such as perceived unfairness, the level of disagreement, physical confrontations, and poor conflict resolution strategies. Her findings indicate that in younger adults, these negative marital processes correlate directly to symptoms of depression. In older adults, however, they result in marital dissatisfaction, which in itself leads to depression.

“Usually with young adults, they’ll get a divorce if problems continue,” says Jacobs. “With older adults who have lived with it longer, they become accustomed to it and don’t have a happy marriage, which leads to depression. By knowing this, through counseling, hopefully we can change the marital processes somehow and lead to less depression.”

Last semester, Jacobs conducted a different independent study with Bookwala, examining the direct relationship between marital quality and physical health, as well as the indirect relationship between those two factors and mental health.

Jacobs appreciates the opportunity to conduct research under the guidance of an expert in her topics. “It’s great to see what Professor Bookwala has to offer in that field since I didn’t come into it with any background,” she says. “I think we’ve learned a lot. I like researching in the library, looking at different studies, seeing what they come up with and trying to predict what other things would happen as a result, what new ideas we can develop.”

“She lets me do things on my own,” adds Jacobs. “She has a better sense of what’s going on, but doesn’t tell me word-for-word what’s going to happen. She lets me figure it out on my own so I can get a grasp of it.”

Last summer, Jacobs participated in another research project dealing with depression at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. From June through August, she analyzed the impact of a clinic’s program to treat adolescents with eating disorders.

Jacobs is a member of Hillel Society and spent the fall 2000-2001 semester studying in Athens, Greece.

Categorized in: Academic News