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Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Research Fellow, Social Science Research Center

University of Minnesota, PhD in Social Psychology (with minors in Interpersonal Relationships, Law, and Quantitative Methods)

Colleen Sinclair’s research falls into two primary categories within interpersonal relationships research: 1) intimate violence and 2) social networks. In the former area, her research has primarily focused on perceptions and predictors of stalking behavior. In the interest of preventing future violence, she believes the study of stalking provides people with an opportunity to recognize warning signs that precede attacks (e.g., sexual and physical assault, murder) and potentially intervene. Her research on this topic is focused on recognizing those warning signs by identifying factors that predict 1) the likelihood to stalk and 2) the likelihood to escalate in violence. The other branch of this stalking research is to examine the perceptions of stalking that influence the treatment of stalking cases in the legal system. In order for people to prevent subsequent violence, successful legal interventions are required. People’s perceptions of stalking – such as whether it is a matter to be taken seriously or not – affect legal outcomes. As such, her research investigates how people see stalking, the source of these perceptions, and, in the future, will hopefully also examine means to change attitudes that inhibit the successful prosecution of stalking cases.

Although her research started with examining the “dark side” of interpersonal relationships with investigations of intimate violence, a more recent track in her research interests focus on the influence of social networks on the survival of romantic relationships. Her primary focus has been on the impact that social network support has on relationship initiation, maintenance, and demise. The influence of social networks on relationship dynamics has often been overlooked. When a couple divorces, we tend to attribute that failure to the members of the couple and ignore the role of the surrounding friends and family. Yet, recent research (including longitudinal surveys, experimental surveys, and social experiments) reveals that social network support can be one of the most important predictors of relationship success. Further, given that relationships are so essential to people’s mental and physical well-being, new research also highlights that social network support for one’s romantic relationship is linked to these important health outcomes (even after controlling for other predictors, such as amount of general support one receives). Accordingly, the impact of social networks should not be under-estimated and has potentially wide-ranging implications for an array of psychosocial outcome