The Anxiety, Stress, & Relationships Lab is headed by Keith Renshaw, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology. The lab focuses on the interpersonal context of anxiety and response to stress and trauma. The primary emphasis is on understanding how PTSD affects and is affected by romantic relationships, with a particular emphasis on military couples. However, we have multiple ongoing research projects, such as understanding individual predictors of trauma response, couples' communication and perceptions of criticism, effects of anxiety on relationship processes, and risk factors for specific OC spectrum disorders.

Major Ongoing Projects

For more information about a project, click on the project title. 

Relationships Among Military Personnel

The primary aim is to better understand specific elements of relationships that are impacted by reactions to trauma, and how relationship processes interact with symptoms of PTSD, depression, substance use, and suicide risk factors over time. Over 500 Army soldiers and their partners completed the first survey, and 250+ couples in which the soldier had at least some level of PTSD symptoms completed 4 more additional surveys over 18 months. Data collection was completed in Spring 2016.

Daily Investigation of Suicidality in Couples

With funding from NIMH, APA, MSRC, and GMU, doctoral student Sarah Carter is gathering data on the daily associations among interpersonal processes and suicidality in active duty soldiers and their romantic partners. The primary aim is to identify interpersonal processes that lead to acute exacerbations of suicidal ideation and intent in high-risk Army soldiers. Data collection is slated to begin in Fall 2016.

Post-Trauma Functioning in Sexual Assault Survivors

With funding from GMU, doctoral student Jennifer DiMauro is gathering data on the psychological and interpersonal functioning of sexual assault survivors. The primary aims are: (1) to explore potentially differing underlying mechanisms of the association between PTSD symptoms and relationship satisfaction across female sexual assault survivors and male combat veterans, and 2) to explore factors related to trauma-related disclosure across these two groups of trauma survivors. Data collection is underway.

Distressing Film Clips and Memory Consolidation

Doctoral student Lauren Paige recently completed collecting data on the effects of memory interventions on intrusive thoughts about distressing film clips. The primary aim is to determine the relative effects of engaging or disrupting sensory and semantic memory consolidation after the clips. Data analysis is currently ongoing.

Distressing Film Clips and Psychophysiological Reactivity

In Fall 2016, our research lab is collaborating with Ali Weinstein to examine psychophysiological variables (baseline, reactivity, and recovery) as potential predictors of intrusive thoughts about distressing film clips. Data collection is scheduled to begin Fall 2016.

Communication in Romantic Couples

The primary aim is to better understand factors that contribute to perceptions of communication from a romantic partner as either hostile or non-hostile (constructive) in nature. More than 60 community couples completed questionnaires and a series of videotaped interactions in the lab. Data collection was completed in Spring 2014, and interactions are being coded during the 2016-2017 year.


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