Human Development and Family Studies

Heather Helms, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Broadly conceived, the substantive focus of my research is the study of marital relationships in context. Conceptually grounded in ecological, developmental, and feminist frameworks, my training and specific research interests emphasize between and within-family variability in the experiences, perceptions, contexts and personal qualities of spouses, as well as their implications for individual, marital, and family well-being.

My graduate work focused primarily on the intersection of work and family as it relates to parenting and work concerns of dual-earner couples and the gender-role socialization of their pre-adolescent and adolescent children. Over time my research interests became more closely focused on marital relationships with specific attention given to the social context of marriage and marital quality.

Three themes characterize the body of my research to date: marital and family process, work and family relationships, and the social context of marriage. The intersection of these themes is perhaps best captured in the new direction of my research that examines marital quality for new parents of Mexican origin. More specifically, the focus of this research is on how new parents’ relational resources moderate the link between sociocultural stressors and marital well-being during the early years of parenthood. An underlying premise of this project is that differences in spouses’ experiences and perceptions create “his” and “her” sociocultural contexts that are linked to husbands’ and wives’ marital well-being in different ways.