Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Terra McKinnish

Second Advisor

Ann M. Carlos

Third Advisor

Francisca M. Antman


The heterogeneous nature of romantic relationships leaves much to be studied in terms of the effects of relationship status on economic decision-making and allocations. In particular, it may be that there is greater variation within what are generally considered 'like' groups--e.g. married couples or cohabiting couples--than there are between these groups. This dissertation examines how this heterogeneity is associated with preferences for investing in children and susceptibility to violence in a relationship. Using two nationally representative, US data sets--the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and the National Survey on Families and Households--I examine outcomes associated with various types and quality of romantic relationships. In two papers, I exploit the detailed nature of Fragile Families to account for previously unobserved heterogeneity within couples, including their likelihood to marry, relationship quality, estimation of the partner's character and the likelihood of financial support from a partner. This study employs linear regression, propensity score matching and ordered probit regression to link relationship quality and expectations of support to different types of investment in children such as reading to children and bringing children to the doctor. I find that attitudinal questions concerning relationship quality and expectations of support are significant predictors of investments in children in some cases and significance is tied to the type of the investment. In the third chapter, I examine heterogeneity of violence and violent relationships and find that, somewhat contrary to a traditional understanding of family violence, women who leave violent relationships tend to forge new relationships without violence and violence can end within a relationship.