In the 1980s, Guiding Light underwent more major changes, though, strategically, the shifts were largely the same. The Dobsons left as head writers and Douglas Marland was brought in. The focus jumped again to introducing the younger characters on the show, displacing many of the more established ones, and creating more complex plots. Marland introduced the Chamberlain and the Lewis families among others.

The first two years of the 1980s saw the show take home two Daytime Emmys for Outstanding drama. Then, a frustrated Marland quit, leaving many complicated storylines wide open which the writers who followed him couldn't cope with. The show dropped in the ratings in spite of doing all it could to compete. Actress Pamela Long was brought in as head writer, bringing some of the actors, and sensibility of her failed Soap, "Texas", along with her. She is best remembered for introducing Alexandra Spaulding, Reva Shayne and Harley Davidson Cooper. Her substantial make-over of the series brought it to the top of the ratings for a few brief weeks in 1984 before falling out of the top five for the rest of the decade.

As the decade went on, the Bauers began to vanish, with Bert Bauer dying in 1986 and the focus shifting to Ed and Rick. The Norises also began to disappear and the Thorpes dwindled with Roger leaving the series for almost the entire decade. The Spaulding family, however, expanded considerably, as Alan and Alex battled for power in a bid to compete with the big business storylines that were popular at the time. The decade also saw the arrival of the Cooper and the Raines families and the expansion of the Reardons.

Plots early on focused on the Reardons running the boarding house and their various romantic misadventures, there was soon the usual range of suicides, affairs, miscarriages, murders, kidnappings, drawn out jury trials, numerous fantasy plots lifted from old movies, sabotage in big business, sexual blackmail, Carrie Marler and Sonni Carrera's multiple personality disorders, Phillip's mental illnesses, numerous rapidly aged characters, class warfare, the return of illegitimate children, mind control and brainwashing, STDs and Reva sleeping with most of the men in a family. The show also launched the careers of Michelle Forbes, Ashley Peldon, Kevin Bacon, Calista Flockhart and Rachel Miner among others. Perhaps less remembered, it was the time when they had special musical guests while trying to cash in on the dying days of disco and the rise of new pop. Neil Sedaka, The Bee Gees, The B-52's and Judy Collins all made appearances.

However, the decade may be remembered most vividly for many because of this scene.