Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Stefanie Mollborn

Second Advisor

Terence P. Thornberry

Third Advisor

Jason Boardman


Why do individuals select romantic partners who use drugs, are criminals, or have mental health problems, a choice that eventually puts them and their children at increased risk for negative developmental outcomes? Theoretically, assortative mating and partner influence are both plausible explanations. Results from a systematic literature review found that the research is split. All cross-sectional, retrospective studies except one supported assortative mating over partner influence. In contrast, all prospective studies supported partner influence. Studying the problem behaviors of romantic couples across the life course is challenging and differences in findings likely result from a number of methodological obstacles. The aim of this study was to use dyadic data from the Rochester Youth Development Study and the Rochester Intergenerational Study to examine these competing hypotheses. Partial correlations and actor-partner interdependence models estimated social homogamy, partner similarity, assortative mating, contagion, and partner influence effects. Heterotypic associations, different types of romantic relationships, and gender differences were also explored. Although social homogamy and partner similarity on problem behavior is evident, little support for assortative mating, except on drug use, and virtually no support for partner influence is found using the Rochester data. Findings do indicate, however, that a comprehensive explanation of partner similarity requires a refined consideration of heterotypic problem behaviors across the life course.

Included in

Criminology Commons