Catrin Finkenauer

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+31 20 59 88857
faculteit der gedrags- en bewegingswetenschappen ( biologische psychologie )
Professor Child abuse and interpersonal relationships

Professional interests

Combining social, clinical, experimental and developmental research my work focuses on the costs and benefits of relationships for people’s health and wellbeing. In contrast to much “interpersonal” research, which relies on self-reports and does not take the partner into account, my work focuses on interpersonal dynamics and examines how partners influence each other. I'm interested in all sorts of relationships: Parent-child relationships, marital relationships, friendships, and relationships between professionals. My research breaks with the traditional focus of relationship research, asking not “Why people break up?”, but rather “Why do people stick together even if things do not work out as well as one may wish?” It seeks to understand how relationship partners bring out the best and the worst in each other. It aims to identify means of fostering harmonious relationships and preventing misunderstandings and conflict. Within this broad theme, my team and I have worked on different topics, including secrecy, disclosure, privacy invasion, trust, and self-control.

Self-control in relationships

My main research focus deals with self-control in relationships and more specifically with how self-control enables both partners in relationships to behave more constructively and less destructively toward each other. Our research shows that self-control has actor effects: People with high self-control are good relationships partners in that they are more forgiving, react more constructively during times of conflict, and are less abusive (Vohs, Finkenauer, & Baumeister, 2010). Self-control also has so-called partner effects: Relationship partners who are perceived to have high (trait and state) self-control are more often chosen as partners to rely on (Righetti & Finkenauer, 2011). More recently my research extends these findings to parent-child relationships and families (together with Prof. Carlo Schuengel, Prof. Lydia Krabbendam, and Dr. Mirjam Oosterman) and traumatized individuals and their partners (together with Prof. Lamers-Winkelman).

Child abuse and Domestic violence

The second line of research deals with the effects of child abuse and domestic violence on children and families. In recent years our knowledge of effective interventions, although still incomplete, has increased substantially. Nevertheless, it is clear that much more research is needed to build a body of knowledge about what might “work” to help children exposed to (partner) violence and abuse and their families. In collaboration with the Child and Adolescent Trauma Center in Haarlem (KJTC Haarlem) and Fier Fryslân, we examine treatment and intervention programs to develop evidence-based methodologies and further support practice within the different centers.  This research is conducted in collaboration with Prof. Francien Lamers-Winkelman, Prof. Carlo Schuengel, Dr. Clasien de Schipper, and Janet van Bavel.

Additionally, we are working to establish so-called wrap-around care for children and their families. In contrast to the so-called “chain- approach,” the wrap-around approach aims to provide child-focused approach in which representatives from different disciplines—law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, youth mental health—work together to optimize the investigation, treatment, management, and, possibly, prosecution of child abuse and domestic violence cases.

For more information in Dutch see: Academische werkplaats kindermishandeling

The influence of Internet use on relationships

Over the last decade, the Internet has invaded people’s lives and revolutionized the way people communicate with each other. As compared to other groups (e.g., single adults), married-with-children households have the highest use of new technologies. In sharp contrast to these impressive statistics, we know surprisingly little about how Internet use affects couples. To fill this gap, we examine how and why Internet use affects marital well-being (together with Prof. Peter Kerkhof and Linda Muusses and Chei Billedo (PhD students).

Cross-cultural differences in intrusive behavior

In this line of research, we examine how people experience intrusive behavior in their relationship. Intrusive behaviors are behaviors that invade others' privacy, such as reading the other's email or text messages without permission, eavesdropping. We propose that the extent to which people enact such behaviors and the extent to which they are experienced as problematic varies as a function of cultural differences. To examine this suggestions, we conduct a cross-cultural study comparing intrusive behavior in close relationships across three countries: The Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey (together with Asuman Tetik, PhD student).

The effect of partner involvement on the delivery

This line of research examines how partners influence each other in the course of the delivery trajectory. Although research has made important progress in examining factors that hamper and facilitate the delivery, we know little about to role of partners in this process: Under which circumstances does the presence of the father facilitate vs. hamper the delivery? How do partners support each other during the preparation of the delivery, the delivery itself, and its aftermath? How do couples deal with their insecurities surrounding the delivery? Together with Marlies Galema (developer of the course “Prettig Bevallen”, see, we examine these questions in a prospective, longitudinal study among first-time parents.

The effect of psychosocial resources on perception

In this line of research, we examine how psychosocial resources (e.g., communal versus exchange relationships, social support) mitigate people’s perception of their environment.  Consistent with this suggestion, Schnall and her colleagues (2009) found that participants accompanied by a friend overestimated the slant of a hill to be less steep when compared to participants who were alone. We extend this research to different types of relationships (together with Dr. Paula Sterkenburg).

Highlighted publications

Buyukcan-Tetik, A., Finkenauer, C., Kuppens, S., & Vohs, K. D. (2013). Both trust and self-control are necessary to prevent intrusive behaviors: Evidence from a longitudinal study of married couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 27, 671-676.

Finkenauer, C. & Righetti, F. (2012). Understanding in close relationships: An interpersonalapproach. In W. Stroebe & M. Hewstone (Eds.), European review of social psychology (Vol. 22, pp. 316-363). Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Righetti, F., & Finkenauer, C. (2011). I trust you because you are able to control yourself: The role of perceived self-control on interpersonal trust. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 874-886.

Vohs, K., Finkenauer, C., & Baumeister, R. F. (2011). The sum of friends’ and lovers’ self-control scores predicts relationship quality. Social Psychological and Personality Science,2, 138-145.

de Ridder, D., Lensvelt-Mulders, G., Finkenauer, C., Stok, F. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (2012). Taking stock of self-control: A meta-analysis of how self-control affects a wide range of behaviors. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16, 76 – 99.

Stroebe, M. S., Finkenauer, C., Wijngaards, L., Schut, H., van den Bout, J., & Stroebe, W. (2013). Partner-oriented self-regulation among bereaved parents: The costs of holding in grief for the partner’s sake. Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/0956797612457383

Kubacka, K. E., Finkenauer, C., Rusbult, C. E., & Keijsers, L. (2011). Maintaining close relationships: Gratitude as a motivator and a detector of maintenance behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(10), 1362–1375.



Masters theses: I am supervising (and am willing to supervise) master's theses of students  throughout the year. We focus on 5 lines of research.

1) The role of self-control in (family) relationships and parenting

2) The impact of child abuse and domestic violence on parent-child relationships

3) Determinants and consequences of intrusive behavior in close relationships

4) The effects of a wrap-around approach to treating child abuse.

5) Dyadic coping with stress among couples expecting their first child



Professor from dec 2012 - present                                                                                     Clinical Child and Family Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Associate Professor from 2011- present
Clinical Child and Family Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Associate Professor from 2002 - 2011
Social Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Assistant Professor 2001 - 2002
Social Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Assistant Professor 1998 - 2001
Child and Adolescent Sutdies, Utrecht University.

Ph.D. (cum laude), Social and Clinical Psychology, 1998, University Louvain, at Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium).


For more information on our project on relationship development, please see


Laatste wijzigingen Nevenwerkzaamheden: Amsterdam 27 januari 2017