Shackleton Relationships Project

What makes couple relationships last?

Many people strive to form and maintain mutually fulfilling intimate partner relationships that they hope will be life-long. For substantial numbers however this goal proves elusive. The Shackleton Relationships project is an innovative collaboration between researchers in the Law School and the Medical School led by Professor Anne Barlow and funded by Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia LVO. By interviewing couples in their 10th year of marriage who we have interviewed periodically since marriage as well as married or unmarried and heterosexual or same-sex couples of 15-30 years’ duration, the research team hope to gain valuable insights into what drives thriving, enduring relationships across the life-course.  We will supplement this data with interviews with divorce lawyers and judges to identify elements of relationship failure.

The wider project aims to explore what the critical questions are that should be asked prior to entering a relationship to help to increase its chances of success and, to consider what type of relationship educational tool(s) might help young people to make better decisions in this area. We will carry out preliminary feasibility work within schools to assess students’ willingness to engage with some educational tools with a view to designing a future intervention and assessing whether and how this could be included in the school’s curriculum.

What makes couple relationships last? Staff keynote presentation of preliminary findings

The state of our intimate relationships can significantly affect our personal well being. Having a good relationship with an intimate partner is one of the things that matters most to people in life but is an elusive goal for many. Dr Jan Ewing will give a keynote address at the Staff Festival on 27th June on the Shackleton Relationships Project. To find out more about what appears to be driving thriving intimate relationships across the life course register here.


Local press attention for Shackleton Relationships Project

Professor Anne Barlow talked about the aims of the project on BBC Spotlight and Radio Devon. 

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Celebrity divorce lawyer backs research to help strengthen couple relationships

Prominent divorce lawyer Baroness Shackleton is funding new University of Exeter research which could help uncover the secret of finding life-long love.

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Do you know what makes couple relationships last?

We are now recruiting couples to take part in interviews to find out what drives their relationship to thrive and endure.

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New Relationships Research starts!

We are pleased to announce the start of a new research project funded by Exeter alumna, Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia LVO.

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Research team

‌Anne Barlow is Professor of Family Law and Policy and previously practised as a solicitor in London. 

Anne has a particular interest in Family Law and Policy, especially the regulation of adult relationships such as cohabitation and marriage.  She has published widely in the Family Law field and has directed many empirical projects on family law and policy issues. She was made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2013 in recognition of her contribution to socio-legal research and served as the academic member of the Family Justice Council from 2012-2015.

Jan Ewing is the Shackleton Research Fellow as well as a Research Fellow in the Law Department on the ‘Creating Paths to Family Justice’ project.

Jan was a Research Associate on the preceding ‘Mapping Paths to Family Justice’ project. She was a family law solicitor in private practice in a career spanning 20 years and is a Family Law Lecturer on the Legal Practice Course at BPP University. For her PhD at the University of Cambridge she interviewed 52 couples separately but consecutively 3 times over the first four years of marriage to examine what drives thriving marriages and what leads to the erosion of marital satisfaction in the first few years after marriage. Her research interests are in family law and policy, particularly in strengthening couple relationships.

Astrid Janssens is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter Medical School, and member of the Child Mental Health Group.

Astrid is a psychologist and anthropologist and completed her PhD in medical sciences at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) in 2010. The focus of her research activities extend from the study of patterns of service use and access of services, evaluation of service organisation and delivery, and development of service models and interventions directly with families or indirectly through practitioners working with children. She has broad experience with a variety of health services research methods. Her methodological interest include mixed method studies, qualitative work with young people and service providers, Delphi surveys, surveillance and epidemiological studies, and appraisal and use of patient reported outcomes.

Sharon Blake is the Shackleton Scholar who will be working on the project as a Masters of Research student.

Sharon has worked with families across children services (fostering, youth offending) and has more recently worked as a health researcher in the University of Exeter Medical School. Her research interests are the impact of law on children, hearing the voice of the child in legal systems and knowledge mobilisation - getting research evidence into practice and used to improve outcomes for children and families.

For further information about this research, please contact: relationshipsproject@exeter.ac.uk

or call Dr Jan Ewing on 00 44 (0) 7971 008931