Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Strong relationships are vital to our physical and psychological well-being. But, what makes a happy relationship? Past research suggests that the similarity between social partners is one of the strongest predictors of relationship quality. However, people can be similar in many ways, such as in their personality and values. This dissertation distinguished the unique associations between similarity (personality similarity, value similarity) and relationship quality for individuals in a number of close relationships by testing two models using multivariate hierarchical linear modeling. Model 1 focused on the individual’s relationship with his or her average social network, and Model 2 focused on the individual’s relationship with one biological parent and with one friend. The findings from the present research demonstrate that individuals and their partners (i.e., social networks, parents, friends) are, indeed, similar in personality and values. However, there are no significant associations between similarity (personality similarity, value similarity) and relationship quality for either individuals or their partners in general. A limitation of the present research is the focus on actual similarity (or similarity between self-reports from the individual and partner) as opposed to perceived similarity (or similarity between the individual’s self-report and his or her perceptions of the partner’s attributes). Perceived similarity may be a more important contributor to relationship quality because people’s perceptions may be more relevant to how they experience and function in their relationships. Future research should examine the association between perceived similarity and relationship quality and directly compare the effect of actual similarity to that of perceived similarity. Additionally, future research should sample a wider variety of individuals (besides college students) and other important social relationships (besides parent-child relationships and friendships) to better capture the association between partner similarity and relationship quality. Thus, research on how partner similarity affects relationship quality is an important avenue to continue exploring because the more we know as a society about the types of individuals who are our most compatible social partners and how to become more compatible with our current social partners, the better our chances will be at achieving high quality relationships and well-being.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Michael Strube

Committee Members

Cindy Brantmeier, Tammy English, Joshua Jackson, Heike Winterheld,


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