Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Elizabeth I. Johnson

Committee Members

Stephanie A. Bohon, Amy J. Rauer, Clea A. McNeely


Changes to U.S. criminal justice policies during the latter part of the twentieth century dramatically increased the number of people incarcerated, and the impact continues to reverberate throughout millions of families today. This three-part dissertation extends scholarship on the effects of criminal justice contact on adult romantic relationships in several ways. The first study uses the PRISMA framework (Liberati et al., 2009) to systematically review what is known regarding how criminal justice contact may increase the risk of marital and non-marital relationship dissolution and whether this risk differs by form of criminal justice contact or by gender. Results were overwhelmingly consistent in suggesting that multiple forms of criminal justice contact increase the risk of relationship dissolution, particularly among people in committed relationships who lived together prior to criminal justice contact. The second study uses data among married and romantically involved couples (N = 1,257) who participated in the Multi-Site Family Study on Incarceration, Parenting and Partnering (Bir & Lindquist, 2017). Actor-Partner Interdependence Models (APIM) suggest that perceptions of dyadic relationship maintenance were related to relationship satisfaction and commitment and institutional barriers to contact moderate the link between bonding and commitment. The third study uses survey data among 331 women involved in romantic relationships to examine whether having ever been arrested or incarcerated was associated with relationship violence and functioning. After controlling for selection factors associated with criminal justice contact, OLS regression models show that arrest histories could increase exposure to physical violence. Taken together, this work demonstrates the enduring impact of criminal justice contact on romantic relationships. Implications for future research, policy, and practice are discussed across studies.

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