Dr Jennifer Harman Examining Intimate Relationships Across Cultures

Women's Dating

Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman: Examining Intimate Relationships Across Cultures

Hayley Matthews

Written by: Hayley Matthews

Hayley Matthews

Hayley has over 10 years of experience overseeing content strategy, social media engagement, and article opportunities. She has also written hundreds of informational and entertaining blog posts. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Bustle, Cosmo, the Huffington Post, AskMen, and Entrepreneur. When she's not writing about dating news, relationship advice, or her fantasy love affair with Leonardo DiCaprio, she enjoys listening to The Beatles, watching Harry Potter reruns, and drinking IPAs.

See full bio »

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Discuss This! Discuss This!
Advertiser Disclosure

TL;DR: With two master’s degrees in counseling psychology, a doctorate in social psychology and more than two decades of research under her belt, Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman is clearly one of the leading experts in the field of dating and relationships.

Whether it’s analyzing psychosocial factors involved with HIV or recognizing power plays between pairs, studying about intimate relationships is Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman’s bread and butter.

As an associate professor at Colorado State University, she is driven to helping us better understand how our closest bonds impact our choices in life.

Assumptions versus reality

From working as a counselor in a methadone clinic in the Bronx to examining what marital roles mean in Tanzania, Harman has seen firsthand how relationships influence people from different backgrounds and cultures and how expectations of those relationships vary.

Assumptions versus reality

Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman, an associate professor at Colorado State University.

“The number one goal in my research is to examine if some of the assumptions we make about relationships are true across many different populations,” she said. “My work is really driven by trying to understand if the things we believe about relationships truly play out in different contexts.”

One of the more interesting assumptions Harman studies is how people think their partner has or does take part in the same risky behaviors they do, whether that’s drinking, engaging in certain sexual activities or remaining faithful.

“In dating, we see this all the time,” she said. “People go on dates and we assume we have more in common with others than we actually do. Those perceptions that we’re similar can sometimes be a danger if the person is a lot riskier than you are.”

Shedding new light on the meaning of relationships

Continuing on the theme of how different cultures view sex and relationships, Harman’s recent work has examined what women from around the world think about sex.

For example, to women in Nepal, sex is a very taboo subject and they are considered promiscuous for even talking about or engaging in it. Whereas, American women are more open about sex and European women even further still.

“I like studying populations that we don’t know a lot about,” she said. “By shedding light on some of these differences and what the meaning of different relationships are, I think it helps open people’s eyes that there are other ways of existing in relationships.”

“My number one goal in my research is to examine if some of the assumptions we make about relationships are true across many different populations,” Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman (left) said.

Harman also is expanding her research about power in relationships to how it affects children in the form of parental alienation, which examines how fathers and mothers can turn their children against the other parent.

“There’s very little work done on it, and people don’t really know how to handle it,” she said. “I think for people who are dating again and have children, it can be a real problem because you have exes who are jealous or threatened by potential new partners and then use children as pawns, making things really, really hard.” For more information about the study, you can see her webpage at www.jenniferjillharman.com.

For those who want to learn more about this field of psychology, Harman is currently teaching a free online course with ScienceofRelationships.com. Registration is still open, and the class runs for another seven weeks.

Advertiser Disclosure

DatingAdvice.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation from many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). DatingAdvice.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.

Our Editorial Review Policy

Our site is committed to publishing independent, accurate content guided by strict editorial guidelines. Before articles and reviews are published on our site, they undergo a thorough review process performed by a team of independent editors and subject-matter experts to ensure the content’s accuracy, timeliness, and impartiality. Our editorial team is separate and independent of our site’s advertisers, and the opinions they express on our site are their own. To read more about our team members and their editorial backgrounds, please visit our site’s About page.