COVID changed trajectory of relationships, research finds

Margaret Gough Courtney, associate professor of sociology, discussed her research study on COVID-19 and changes in family formation and physical and mental well-being on May 6 in the Randall Lewis Center.

Her presentation, before 15 community members with others who tuned in on Zoom, was part of a series by Lewis Center faculty research fellows.

Gough Courtney looked at the pandemic’s toll on romantic relationships among other relationships.

She sampled over 300 subjects’ responses during three waves of the pandemic to see if responses changed.

The study was broken down into single men and women, married couples, and parents to get all aspects of changes to their life plans. The most marked changes were among single men and women, she found.

Gough Courtney found that more than 20% of people she studied experienced changes to their plans for cohabitation, marriage or having children. She found many people either sped up or put on hold their plans, either short or long term.

Her research showed men had the greatest changes in their plans when it came to situations like moving in with their significant others or trying to have a child.

Many men decided to prolong their plans due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, she said.

Gough Courtney said the biggest factor to these changes of plans were feelings of uncertainty in the future.

She found many in her study also delayed decisions to have a wedding, to have kids or to move in with significant others.

For some, she found, the pandemic sped up these same processes.

Her study is not finished as she still has stages of the scientific process to work through.

“I could do a fourth wave of sampling,” Gough Courtney said. “To see if these people’s plans have changed again.”

“I thought it was very thought provoking,” said Corina Ruelas, a senior criminology major, who attended the talk. “I liked how it was very relevant to my class, birth migration and aging which is taught by Dr. Gough.”

—Joslyn Aguilar

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