Scholarly Success: Rebecca Horne

Rebecca Horne
Thursday, September 6, 2018 - 12:42pm
Carla DeMarco

A Q&A with recent Vanier winner, Rebecca Horne UTM psychology grad student 

The project she will undertake for the Vanier award examines a particular sacrifice one partner might have to make for the other over the course of their relationship: relocating for a job opportunity.

Few studies have focused on how couples navigate this significant life transition or how moving for one’s partner affects a relationship over time, and Horne expects her findings will provide strategies to minimize the negative effects of moving and lead to growth in the relationship.

Q: Could you provide an overview of your research and your specific area of study?

My research area focuses on romantic relationships and the individual, relational, and contextual factors that contribute to satisfying intimate bonds. I'm particularly interested in “big” relationship sacrifices: situations where we give up or modify our own goals and desires in a significant way for an intimate partner, and then how this impacts individual and relationship well-being. I often draw on gender and developmental frameworks in my research, exploring how gender dynamics shape partners’ sacrifice behaviours, and how these behaviours change over time.

One project I am currently working on that falls under the umbrella of these “big” relationship sacrifices is a study on how romantic partners regulate or control their emotions during sex. Partners do this by either exaggerating positive emotions and displays of sexual desire, or concealing negative emotions and feelings of sexual disinterest while being sexually intimate. I am interested in what implications these regulatory strategies have for partners’ sexual and relationship satisfaction both on a day-to-day basis, as well as over time in relationships when these strategies are used more chronically. Spoiler alert: the results are not very promising!

Q: How did you get into this area of research in the first place?

I fell in love with relationships research when I took the course Intimate Relationships in the second year of my family sciences undergraduate degree, taught by my former MSc co-supervisor Dr. Matthew Johnson at the University of Alberta (UofA). I often thought I might pursue a career in couple’s counselling, but this course exposed me to another possibility that sounded even more appealing to me: studying couples through scientific research methods. I was not only fascinated with the diversity of research on establishing and maintaining strong intimate unions, but with the applicability of such research to the everyday lives of couples and families. Feeling inspired after completing this course, I reached out to Dr. Johnson to begin collaborating on a quantitative research project on the interrelations of three prominent couple processes I learned about in his course, i.e., dyadic coping, commitment, and sacrifice. At this time, I also worked on a qualitative research project with Dr. Rhonda Breitkreuz, my MSc co-supervisor at the UofA, on how sacrifices and gender inequalities are tied to mothers’ childcare experiences. Taken together, these early research experiences cemented my interest in couple relationships, sacrifice, and gender dynamics.

Q: Can you tell me about your experience working with award winning UTM Professor Emily Impett?

Working with Dr. Emily Impett has been AMAZING! She is an incredibly sharp relationship researcher who is always budding with great ideas and comprehensive feedback on any project in which she is involved. Despite her many impressive accomplishments and prestigious standing in the field, she is a very approachable, humble, and kind person. What I think is special about her leadership style is that she somehow manages to strike this interesting balance of being a very hands-on, responsive mentor while also fostering autonomy in her students in ways that help them grow as independent researchers. She also really emphasizes collaboration and fosters a strong sense of community among students she works with—so much so that she goes out of her way to celebrate the successes of students, both in and outside of her specific lab, such as gathering everyone together for a celebratory meal when someone receives an award or gets a paper published. I’m not even finished the first year of my PhD, and she has already provided me with countless opportunities work with undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty members in relationship science. I’m very lucky to have Dr. Impett as my supervisor and still remember how excited – and also a bit incredulous – I was when she initially responded to my email about my interest in joining her lab because she is so prolific in her field.

Q: Can you delve a bit deeper into the project you will be focusing on as part of this Vanier award?

I will be holding the Vanier at UTM, and the project I am focusing on is a longitudinal study on arguably one of the biggest sacrifices an individual can make for a partner: relocating for the partner’s job. Past research has outlined the job-specific and psychological stressors of relocation on each individual partner, but we know surprisingly little about how moving for one partner’s work affects their relationship as a whole. I hope to better understand the changing needs of romantic partners throughout the relocation process and what couples can do at each stage to navigate this critical period of transition. Findings from this study will be used to inform mobile partners about how they can not only minimize the negative effects of moving, but even leverage the move to secure greater relationship well-being and growth. We plan to recruit 200 couples, and both partners will complete a baseline survey before they move, weekly surveys for three consecutive months immediately following their relocation, and three additional surveys at 6, 9, and 12 months post-move.

Q: How did you find out you won the Vanier and what does this honour mean for you?

I found out through an email notification. But they didn’t announce the results directly in the email, so I was frantically going through all of the online pages to get to the results announcement. I remember sitting at the “see results” page for a bit before opening it and my heart was beating out of my chest! But once I finally opened it and saw the words “congratulations,” I immediately started crying (with happiness!). Definitely an odd response to great news, but I was just so overwhelmed with emotion that I didn’t know what else to do!

No exaggeration—this honour means the world to me! I distinctly remember I was in the second year of my undergraduate degree when I first read about the Vanier. I thought to myself, “Wow, I can’t imagine what it would take to receive that award. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to achieve something like that.” Five years later, here I am in a position I never imagined I would be. It definitely takes a lot of hard work, but the outstanding mentorship I have received along the way and my intrinsic interest in the research I do has been the ultimate motivator. I am beyond grateful (and still in shock)! Receiving this award also reassures me that others see the value in relationship research, and I am now more inspired than ever to continue studying the mystery that is romantic relationships and sharing my work with others!

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program annually helps Canadian institutions attract highly qualified doctoral students, and annually awards up to 166 scholarships to pursue NSERC, SSHRC or CIHR projects.

See a list of all 2018 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholars on the Vanier website.