Benjamin Karney


Ph.D.: University of California, Los Angeles
Area Chair: Social Psychology
Primary Area: Social Psychology
Address: 5546 Pritzker Hall
Phone: (310) 206-3925

Research and Teaching Interests:

For the past 15 years, Dr. Karney has been studying change and stability in intimate relationships, especially in the early years of marriage.  His research has focused on cognitive and behavioral processes of relationship maintenance, and especially the ways that stress external to the couple can facilitate or constrain those processes.  His research relies upon longitudinal data, repeated measures, multi-level modeling, and observational coding of couple interactions.  To address these issues, his ongoing longitudinal research is examining Hispanic, black, and white newlywed couples from low-income neighborhoods, as well as military families facing deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.


Benjamin Karney is a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an adjunct behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation.  He is an expert on interpersonal relationships, especially marriage, and has done extensive research on how relationship processes and interactions are constrained or enhanced by the contexts in which they take place.  Currently this includes research on marriages in the military, funded by the Department of Defense, and marriages in low-income populations, funded by the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development.  Before returning to Los Angeles, he served as a tenured member of the faculty of the psychology department at the University of Florida, where his research examined change and stability in early marriage, focusing on the processes through which initially satisfying marriages either remain satisfying or deteriorate over time.  He has been the director and principle investigator of the Florida Project on Newlywed Marriage and Adult Development (FPNMAD), a series of longitudinal studies of the first years of marriage, and in 2003, he conducted the baseline survey of marriage and families for the state of Florida as part of their initiative to strengthen families.  He is also an expert consultant for the Strengthening Healthy Marriage project, an 8-year national experimental study of marital interventions for low-income populations, sponsored by the Administration on Children and Families.  He has twice been the recipient of the National Council on Family Relation’s Reuben Hill Research and Theory Award for outstanding contributions to family science.

Curriculum Vitae

Representative Publications:

Selected Journal Articles

Karney, B. R. & Bradbury, T. N.  (1995).  The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability:  A review of theory, method, and research.  Psychological Bulletin118,  3-34.

Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N.  (1997).  Neuroticism, marital interaction, and the trajectory of marital satisfaction.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology72, 1075-1092.

Karney, B. R. & Frye, N. E.  (2002).  “But we’ve been getting better lately”:  Comparing prospective and retrospective views of relationship development.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 222-238.

Neff, L.A. & Karney, B. R. (2003).  The dynamic structure of relationship beliefs:  Differential importance as a strategy of relationship maintenance.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin29, 1433-1446.

Neff, L. A. & Karney, B. R. (2004).  How does context affect intimate relationships?  Linking external stress and cognitive processes within marriage.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin30, 134-148.

McNulty, J. K. & Karney, B. R.  (2004).  “Should I Expect the Best or Brace for the Worst?” The Role of Positive Expectations in the Early Years of Marriage.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology86, 729–743.

Neff, L. A. & Karney, B. R. (2005).  Gender differences in social support:  A question of skills or responsiveness?  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology88, 79-90.

Neff, L. A. & Karney, B. R. (2005).  To know you is to love you: The importance of global adoration and specific understanding for close relationships.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology88, 480-497.

Karney, B. R. & Bradbury, T. N.  (2005).  Contextual influences on marriage:  Implications for policy and intervention.  Current Directions in Psychological Science14, 171-174.

Frye, N. E. & Karney, B. R.  (2006).  The proximal and distal context of aggressive behaviors in marriage:  A longitudinal study of newlyweds. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 12-20.

Karney, B. R. (2007). Not Shifting But Broadening the Focus of Marital Research. Journal of Marriage and Family69, 310-314.

Neff, L. A. & Karney, B. R.  (2007).  Stress crossover in newlywed marriage:  A longitudinal and dyadic perspective.  Journal of Marriage and Family69, 594-607.

Frye, N. E., McNulty, J. K., & Karney, B. R. (2008).  How do constraints on leaving a marriage affect behavior within the marriage?  Journal of Family Psychology22, 153-161.

McNulty, J. K., Neff, L. A., & Karney, B. R.  (2008).  Beyond initial attraction: Physical attractiveness in newlywed marriage.  Journal of Family Psychology22, 135-143.

McNulty, J. K., O’Mara, E. M., & Karney, B. R.  (2008).  Benevolent cognitions as a strategy of relationship maintenance:  “Don’t sweat the small stuff…but it’s NOT all small stuff.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology94, 631-646.

Sullivan, K. T., & Karney, B. R.  (2008).  Incorporating religious practice in marital interventions:  To pray or not to pray?  Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,27, 670-677.

Rauer, A. J., Karney, B. R., Garvan, C. W., & Hou, Wei (2008).  Relationship risks in context:  A cumulative risk approach to understanding satisfaction in intimate relationships.   Journal of Marriage and Family70, 1122-1135.

Neff, L. A. & Karney, B. R. (2009).  Stress and reactivity to daily relationship experiences: How stress hinders adaptive processes in marriage.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology97, 435-450.

Karney, B. R. & Gauer, B. (2010).  Cognitive complexity and marital interaction in newlyweds. Personal Relationships17, 181-200.

Karney, B. R. (2010).  A science of healthy relationships is not a healthy relationship science.  Journal of Family Theory and Review, 2, 42-46.

Karney, B. R., Hops, H., Redding, C. A., Reis, H. T., Rothman, A. J., & Simpson, J. A.  (in press).  A Framework for Incorporating Dyads in Models of HIV-Prevention.  AIDS and Behavior.

Selected Books and Monographs

Karney, B. R. & Crown, J. S. (2007).  Families under stress:  An assessment of data, theory, and research on marriage and divorce in the military.  (MG-599-OSD).  Santa Monica, CA:  RAND Corporation.

Karney, B. R., Beckett, M. K., Collins, R. L., & Shaw, R. N. (in press). Adolescent romantic relationships as precursors of healthy adult marriages:  A review of theory, research, and programs.  (TR433-ACF).  Santa Monica, CA:  RAND Corporation.

Bradbury, T. N. & Karney, B. R. (2010).  Intimate Relationships.  New York:  W. W. Norton.

Selected Book Chapters

Karney, B. R.,  Bradbury, T. N., & Johnson, M. D. (1999).  Deconstructing stability:  The distinction between the course of a close relationship and its endpoint.  In J. M. Adams and W. H. Jones (Eds.),Handbook of interpersonal commitment and relationship stability. (pp. 481-499)  New York:  Plenum Publishing.

Karney, B. R., McNulty, J. K., & Bradbury, T. N.  (2000).  Cognition and the development of close relationships.  In Clark, M. S. & Fletcher, G. J. O. (Eds.), Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol. 2:  Interpersonal Processes (pp. 32-59).  Oxford:  Blackwell Publishers Limited.

Karney, B. R., McNulty, J. K., & Frye, N. E.  (2001).  A social-cognitive perspective on the maintenance and deterioration of relationship satisfaction.  In Harvey, J. H. & Wenzel, A. E. (Eds.), Close, romantic relationships:  Maintenance and enhancement (pp. 195-214).  Mahwah, NJ:  Erlbaum.

Neff, L. A., & Karney, B. R. (2002).  Self-evaluation motives in close relationships:  A model of global enhancement and specific verification.  In Noller, P. & Feeney, J. A. (Eds.), Understanding marriage:  Developments in the study of couple interaction (pp. 32-58).  New York:  Cambridge.

Karney, B. R., & Springer, S. H. (2004).  Should promoting marriage be the next stage of welfare reform?  In Crouter, A. C., & Booth, A. (Eds.),Work-family challenges for low-income parents and their children (pp. 243-250).  Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Karney, B. R. & Bradbury, T. N.  (2004).  Trajectories of change during the early years of marriage.  In Conger, R. D.,  Lorenz, F. O. and Wickrama, K. A. S. (Eds.), Continuity and Change in Family Relations: Theory, Methods, and Empirical Findings (pp.65-96).  Mahwah, NJ:  Erlbaum.

Karney, B.R., Story, L.B., & Bradbury, T.N. (2005). Marriages in context: Interactions between chronic and acute stress among newlyweds. In T.A. Revenson, K. Kayser, & G. Bodenmann (Eds.),Emerging perspectives on couples’ coping with stress (pp. 13-32).Washington DC: American Psychological Association Press.

Link to the Relationship Institute that Dr. Karney co-directs.