Friday, June 25, 2004

A few weeks ago, I received the Spring 2004 issue of Relationship Research News, the newsletter of the International Association for Relationship Research. Within the newsletter was a review of the book Thrice Told Tales: Married Couples Tell Their Stories. The book was written by Diane Holmberg (a Michigan social psych Ph.D.), Terri Orbuch (a research scientist at UM's Institute for Social Research and a professor at Oakland University in suburban Detroit), and Joe Veroff (Professor Emeritus at UM in social psychology).

The book presents qualitative data (i.e., "narratives" or "stories") from the Early Years of Marriage (EYM) project, begun in 1986 by Veroff, ISR Research Scientist Shirley Hatchett, and the late UM Professor Elizabeth "Libby" Douvan. A number of social psych grad students from the mid-1980s such as Susan Crohan, Ann Ruvolo, and Lynne Sutherland also worked on the project. Orbuch came on a little later in a leadership role. (Note that the above link to the EYM project is from Radcliffe's Murray Center, where some of the EYM data are now archived.)

In preparing this entry, I thought I should do a little homework, so I contacted some people on (or close to) the project to see how things were going. I also read the following article, which provides an excellent overview of the EYM project:

Orbuch, T.L., & Veroff, J. (2002). A programmatic review: Building a two-way bridge between social psychology and the study of the early years of marriage. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19, 549-568.

Participating couples have been interviewed every few years (the title of the book derives from its use of interviews at three occasions). The EYM study has gathered quantitative (closed-ended) data as well as qualitative, but as noted above, the book focused on the latter. Based on the References section of the aforementioned article and some computer searching I did, I would estimate that at least 20 scholarly publications have emerged from the project.

Joe and Libby, always sweet, gentle, and friendly, collaborated extensively in their teaching as well as research. During the Winter 1985 term, I took Joe and Libby's graduate course on socialization (yes, I still have the syllabus and my notes).

In addition to the EYM project, Joe and Libby also collaborated on earlier national surveys on Americans' social participation, as described in the following book:

Veroff, J., Douvan, E., & Kulka, R.. (1981) The inner American: A self-portrait from 1957 To 1976. New York, NY: Basic Books.

This research has been cited in such prominent books as Bowling Alone (by Robert Putnam) and The Tending Instinct (by Shelley Taylor).

Joe also has a long history in studying various social motives (e.g., achievement, power). Monica Biernat, who later switched to research on stereotyping, published an article in 1989 in the Journal of Personality on achievement motives and values, which resulted from her working with Joe.

Joe seems to be doing well at this time. The last time I saw him was in 2002 at a reception during Pat Gurin's retirement celebration (the subject of my June 14, 2004 entry). One of Joe's EYM collaborators, who also notes that "we just finished collecting data in Year 16 of the couples' marriages," informs us that:

"Joe is fine and wonderful. He continues to be active in research activities on the Early Years of Marriage Project. He continues to be a co-PI on the project."

One of Joe's relatives adds:

"He is doing well and I think he enjoys the ongoing connectivity and work on this project. My sense is that he also enjoys the collaborative writing. That said, he is also doing a lot of other kinds of writing for pleasure (fiction, poetry) and savors the slow pace of life in a Michigan small town."

And through the continuing vitality of the EYM project, the legacy of Joe, Libby, and their collaborators lives on...