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Much has been written and hypothesized about marriage. Lakeland College senior Joy Harvell is joining the discussion of the age-old question of what makes a long-term, committed relationship work.
Fueled by a love for learning, Harvell, a senior sociology major, is spending this semester researching marriage for her Lakeland Honors Program project. Her interest in this topic stems from personal experience. "My parents were divorced, and my dad was re-married and divorced after a year," Harvell said. "Relationships seem so fragile. I was interested in learning more."
Her initial quest led her to attachment theory, and from there she researched marriage and family, but never seemed to find the answers she was looking for.
"There are a couple of articles about the impressions children have about marriage based on their parents' marriage, but nothing that says what happens when they get involved in a serious relationship," Harvell said.
In December, Harvell emailed approximately 4,000 Kellett School students outlining her research and soliciting their involvement. Over 100 who fit her criteria and wanted to participate responded by the middle of January.
She's asking married adults to discuss the relationship they observed between their parents, and then asking them to discuss their own marriage. She hopes to develop conclusions about how marital relationships observed by offspring correlate with their own romantic relationships. She has applied to present her findings at this summer's American Sociological Association Conference in Atlanta, Ga.
"Once I start to analyze the data, that's going to be the most exciting part," Harvell said.
Last spring, she presented her initial work on this topic at the Midwest Sociological Society conference in Iowa. She plans on attending graduate school, and her ultimate goal is to teach at a research institution.
Throughout her time at Lakeland, Harvell has fit her research into a busy schedule that's included roles as a writing tutor, president of Lakeland's Campus Activities Board and her job in the campus pub. "I like learning and engaging with people," Harvell said. "Everything I've done has to do with that. I like to know what's going on in my world. The easiest way to do that is to be involved on and off campus."