Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Howard J. Markman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Galena K. Rhoades, Ph.D.


Defining the relationship, Young adult romantic relationships, Young adult sexual relationships


This dissertation presents three manuscripts addressing different sets of findings related to the "defining the relationship" (DTR) talk in adolescents' and young adults' romantic relationships. Paper 1 describes descriptive results from two studies, one utilizing a college undergraduate young adult sample (N = 341) and the other using a nationwide online sample of 15 to 17-year-old adolescents (N = 248). Key findings from Paper 1 indicate that DTR talks were used frequently in the relationships of young people, and were associated with relationship commitment and sexual behaviors. Paper 2 describes more in-depth analyses testing associations between having a DTR talk before having sex and sexual safety and functioning among a subset of the adolescent sample (N = 163). Results from Paper 2 demonstrated that having a DTR talk before having sex with a relationship partner was linked with safer sex behaviors, including delaying sex and using contraception more frequently. Finally, Paper 3 is an educational case study about the research methods used to collect data from the adolescent sample, and is included as a supplement to describe the study methodology in greater detail than was appropriate to include in the other two manuscripts. Together, results from this dissertation project suggest that the "defining the relationship" talk may be an important feature of young people's romantic relationships and provide a foundation for the study of DTR talks in future research.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Kayla Knopp


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

108 p.


Clinical psychology, Sexuality, Communication