ABSTRACTS

Invited Addresses

Interdependence and relationship maintenance

Marianne Dainton
LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Given interdependence theory’s focus on patterns of interaction such that one person’s outcomes are dependent upon the partner’s provision of rewards, it makes sense to use the theory to investigate relationship maintenance processes. Indeed, previous research has established that individuals view their partner’s use of pro-social maintenance behaviors to be rewarding, and that the partner’s use of maintenance predicts a substantial amount of an individual’s own relational satisfaction. Yet, research does not consistently support the tenets of Thibaut & Kelley’s interdependence theory. In this presentation I will discuss the research that links interdependence and relational maintenance processes, with a particular focus on the central concepts of the theory that have been supported and those that have not been supported by the existing research. I will conclude with implications for future theorizing about relational maintenance.

 

The pivot generation: Midlife adults’ relationships with generations above and below

Karen L. Fingerman
University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

Increased longevity has resulted in families with multiple generations traversing adulthood simultaneously. The term “sandwich generation” (e.g., adults raising young children and caring for aging parents) has been debunked and replaced by the term “pivot generation” Midlife adults typically engage in frequent contact and support exchanges with grown children and with aging parents, but alter or pivot attention to different family members. The principal source of data for this talks is the Family Exchanges Study, a longitudinal study of 633 three generation families including middle-aged adults, their aging parents, and their grown children, with data collection in 2008 and 2013. Participants completed surveys, daily diaries, and provided salivary samples. I also present data from other studies that have examined adults’ ties to parents across adulthood. Midlife adults typically feel more affection for and engage in more active conflict strategies with grown children than with parents. Midlife adults typically provide more support to grown children than to aging parents, but these patterns differ across the life course. Factors that elicit support include crises, statuses (e.g., student), affection, perceptions of success, personal rewards of helping, and sometimes simply being in contact (e.g, advice by phone). When grown children or parents incur problems or crises, pivoting between generations may become complicated and stressful, and midlife adults may suffer distress and physiological consequences. Discussion focuses on possible cohort differences in patterns and what future generational interdependencies may look like.

 

The structure of interdependence shapes cognition in relationships

John G. Holmes
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Mutual responsiveness is necessary to sustain a close relationship, and to achieve it, people must protect their overall motivation to act in a caring way against the costs naturally arising from the challenges of maintaining interdependence. These challenges are universal and require solutions that constitute relatively automatic habit structures. The solutions allow people to “keep their eyes on the prize” and sustain their rewards without being distracted by the costs that occur along the way. The most obvious challenge involves partners’ behavior that will on occasion interfere with one’s personal goals, by either pursuing their own interests first or failing to coordinate dyadic goals. The automatic response to such experiences in committed, trusting relationships is to rationalize the negative behavior by focusing on the partners’ positive features, to interpret motives as benign, or to misremember the non-responsive behavior. However, if people have the cognitive resources for deliberation, those whose broader goals are more self-protective rather than connective will overturn the pro-relationship impulses, to their ultimate detriment.

 

Relationship-protective properties of selfishness and insecurity: Insights from interdependence and communal-exchange theories

Edward P. Lemay, Jr.
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Selfishness and insecurity are typically viewed as harmful for interpersonal relationships, and several findings support this perspective. In the current talk, I will summarize two programs of research inspired by interdependence and communal-exchange theories suggesting that these phenomena may engender pro-relationship interpersonal processes. First, I will describe research suggesting that the goal to be positively regarded, which has been characterized as an interpersonally noxious egoistic or self-image goal in prior research, promotes pro-relationship behavior and cognitions when this goal is properly isolated from confounded constructs. Second, I will describe research suggesting that insecurity about partners’ love and commitment, which has been described as detrimental to relationship quality and persistence in prior research, often activates relationship-protective goals and, in turn, pro-relationship behavior in insecure individuals and their partners. Collectively, these lines of research suggest that, due to the interdependence and communal care characterizing most close relationships, selfishness and insecurity may often incite interpersonal processes that compensate for some of their interpersonal costs and promote relationship resilience.

 

Partner buffering of attachment insecurity

Jeffrey A. Simpson1, Nickola Overall2
1University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA, 2University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Insecurely attached people have less happy and more stable romantic relationships, but the quality of their relationships should depend on how their partners regulate them. Some partners find ways to buffer (emotionally and behaviorally regulate) insecurely attached individuals, which makes them feel better, behave more constructively, and improves their relationships. Understanding when and how this important interpersonal process works requires a dyad-centered approach. In this talk, I overview key tenets of attachment theory and the two forms of attachment insecurity (anxiety and avoidance). I then discuss the Dyadic Regulation Model of Insecurity Buffering, which explains how and why certain types of buffering behaviors should soothe the worries and improve the relationship perceptions and behaviors of anxious and avoidant people. Following this, I discuss recent studies of couples trying to resolve major conflicts that illustrate some ways in which partners can successfully buffer the insecure reactions of anxious and avoidant individuals.

 

Methods of modelling interdependence

Joy McClure1, Patrick E. Shrout2, Christopher T. Burke3
1Adelphi University, Garden City, NY, USA, 2New York University, New York, NY, USA, 3Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, USA
Relationships researchers need multivariate statistical methods to study processes that unfold between people and over time, such as communication exchanges, relationship formation, relationship maintenance and social support. Relationship data are intrinsically interdependent, both substantively and statistically, but there are a variety of models that can be used to represent this interdependence. In this session we examine methods for modelling interdependence, tackling both conceptual and statistical issues: How is interdependence conceptualized substantively? What are the appropriate models given the conceptualization? What can be learned from alternative models? How are these models implemented practically? McClure will review the seminal actor-partner interdependence model (APIM), Shrout will present alternative interdependence models, and Burke will examine interdependence over time. We will work through an empirical example and engage the audience with a panel discussion.

Organized Symposia

Advances in self-expansion research

Presenting Authors: Beck, Mattingly, & Tomlinson
Organizer: Jennifer Tomlinson
Chair: Arthur Aron

The self-expansion model posits that people are motivated to grow through relationships and individual experiences (Aron, Lewandowski, Mashek, & Aron, 2013). One way that self-expansion can occur is through including the identities, perspectives, and resources of relationship partners in one’s own self-concept (Aron et al., 1991). Another way that self-expansion can occur is through participation in novel, challenging, and physically arousing activities either with a relationship partner or individually (Aron et al., 2000). This symposium brings together three novel lines of research that each focus on different aspects of self-expansion. Finally, Arthur Aron will discuss how these studies and other current and future work will advance knowledge and contribute to the field.

The first talk focuses on inclusion of the other in the self in new friendships. Participants interacted with a potential friend on tasks involving high or low closeness. Results showed that the interplay between both participants’ attachment avoidance predicted each individual’s cortisol levels; participants showed the highest cortisol levels when there was mismatch between their own and their partners’ levels of attachment avoidance. Furthermore, the interplay between both participants’ attachment anxiety predicted each individual’s feelings of closeness; participants both felt and wanted the most closeness with partners when both they and their partners were low in attachment anxiety.

The second talk considers how individual differences in growth beliefs influence the desire to engage in self-expanding experiences with a romantic partner. Across two cross-sectional studies, it was hypothesized that growth beliefs would result in relationship improvement, and this association would be mediated by self-expansion. In Study 1, growth beliefs predicted relationship quality, and self-expansion mediated this association. In Study 2, growth beliefs predicted relationship quality, accommodation, and dissolution consideration and self-expansion significantly mediated these associations.

The third talk seeks to understand what aspects of self-expanding activities are most beneficial. In Study 1, college-aged pairs participated in a self-expanding activity. Perceptions of excitement during the task (controlling for perceptions of challenge and arousal) predicted increased self-expansion, relationship satisfaction, and positive affect and decreased negative affect. In Studies 2 and 3, individuals reported perceptions of excitement, challenge, and arousal during activities done with relationship partners. Perceptions of excitement (controlling for challenge and arousal) predicted increased relationship self-expansion, closeness, relationship satisfaction, self-efficacy, and positive affect, and decreased negative affect.

Taken together, these studies contribute new ways of understanding of how self-expansion influences our health, relationships, and individual functioning.

 

Attachment style in romantic relationships: Understanding and supporting insecurely attached individuals

Presenting Authors: Debrot, El Ghaziri, Jakubiak, & Schrage
Organizer: Anik Debrot
Chair: Anik Debrot

The quality of one’s romantic relationship is crucial for a satisfying life. However, some people struggle to maintain quality romantic relationships. In particular, people with an insecure attachment style have been shown to have not only less satisfying relationships, but also poorer well-being. This symposium brings together research that investigates, with a variety of methods and samples, the individual and relational consequences of insecure attachment style and possible interventions to buffer attachment insecurity. Specifically, we present research on attachment insecurity’s links with interpersonal touch (Jakubiak et al.; Debrot et al.), the role of insecure attachment in processes affecting relationship satisfaction (El Ghaziri & Darwiche), and partner behaviors that affect insecurely attached reactions (Jakubiak et al., Schrage et al.).

In the first talk, Jakubiak and colleagues demonstrate that touch buffers anxiously attached individual’s reactions to an experimental induction of jealousy. Seventy-five individuals in committed relationships were made to feel jealous, and anxiously attached individuals’ heightened jealous reactions were buffered by touch more than a traditional security prime, which shows the potency of touch to decrease perceived relational threats for those vulnerable to over-perceiving them.

Next, Debrot and colleagues present a first set of three cross-sectional studies based on a total of 1928 participants. Results show that avoidantly attached individuals show much more negative attitudes toward touch on a series of touch measures. However, they seem to benefit from this affectionate non-verbal behavior, showing its potential importance to foster those peoples’ well-being. This will set the base for further investigations using more micro-analytical methods (videotaped interactions and daily diary data).

In a third talk, in a sample of 230 couples, El Ghaziri and Darwiche demonstrate that an insecure attachment style allows us to explain why lower self-esteem is associated with decreased actor and partner relationship quality, not only for the couples’ relationship satisfaction but also for their coparenting quality. This research shows the broader familial implications of adult insecure attachment.

Finally, Schrage and colleagues show that during videotaped and coded interactions of 280 couples, a partner’s affectionate involvement in a discussion appears to buffer the generally lower affective state of avoidantly attached individuals, but that lower partner involvement yields even more negative reactions for those individuals. Based on this finding, she discusses the strategies for communicating affection towards in a manner that facilitates positive outcomes in avoidant partners.

 

Autonomy as a fundamental aspect of interdependent relationships: Relationship outcomes are enhanced when individuals are autonomously motivated or fulfilled

Presenting Authors: Girme, Hadden, & Overup
Organizer: Benjamin Hadden
Chair: Benjamin Hadden

Autonomous functioning—the experience that one’s actions are authentic, self-governed, and uncoerced—is a cornerstone of adaptive functioning. This is especially true in interdependent relationships, where partners play a fundamental role in promoting or undermining individuals’ well-being. The three talks in this symposium present novel data that highlight the benefits of being autonomously motivated or fulfilled in inherently interdependent relationships. Each talk examines a unique context of relationship interactions, providing evidence of the pervasive influence of autonomous functioning in shaping romantic partners’ experiences.

First, Hadden will present data from two cross-sectional dyadic samples (total N = 370 dyads). These data show that individuals with more autonomous motivation for maintaining their romantic relationship were more accurate in their responsiveness such that their reported responsiveness was more strongly associated with their partner’s perceived responsiveness. In turn, higher accuracy predicted higher partner satisfaction with the relationship. Ultimately, these findings provide insight into the dyadic importance of autonomous relationship motivation, suggesting that autonomous relationship motivation facilitates effective support giving.

Second, Girme will discuss the dyadic benefits that partners’ autonomy-sensitive behaviors (subtle behaviors that avoid direct influence) have on individuals’ autonomy and commitment. Two dyadic studies, including a daily diary (N = 78 dyads) and a six-month observational and longitudinal study (N = 100 dyads) revealed that partners’ autonomy-sensitive behaviors facilitated individuals’ autonomy over time, and particularly so for highly avoidant individuals who prioritize their independence. Furthermore, when highly avoidant individuals felt more autonomous, it repaired their lack of commitment they typically feel. These findings provide a possible route for partners to increase relationship outcomes, especially when individuals find interdependence challenging.

Third, Øverup will explore the benefits of autonomous motivation for sexual experiences in interdependent relationships. An event-contingent diary (N = 157 individuals in romantic relationships) assessed general motivation orientations (i.e., trait motivation) at baseline and sexual experiences over the course of 21-days. Results revealed that people with greater autonomous orientation experienced more positive sexual interactions with their romantic partner, including feeling more desired and respected, as well as greater sexual satisfaction, whereas individuals with more controlled orientations experienced less of these feelings.

Overall, these talks demonstrate the importance of experiencing autonomy in interdependent relationships across a variety of contexts, for both for one’s own relationship outcomes as well as for one’s partner.

 

Contextualizing emotion suppression: Suppressing negative emotions can be beneficial depending on individual and partner qualities and motives

Presenting Authors: Baker, Girme, Le, & Winterheld
Organizer: Levi Baker
Chair: Levi Baker

In close relationships, people often suppress and hide their negative emotions from their partners. Unfortunately, emotion suppression has been strongly linked to detrimental personal and interpersonal consequences. Nevertheless, contextual theories of interpersonal communication suggest that suppressing negative emotions may be beneficial in certain contexts. Consistent with this idea, this symposium presents four talks that provide novel evidence that emotion suppression in close relationships can be beneficial depending on contextual factors, such as the motivation underlying such regulatory efforts and qualities of individuals and relationship partners.

First, Winterheld discusses four studies (total N = 917) showing that individuals high in attachment avoidance hide concerns to protect their partner from experiencing distress when feeling strongly connected to him or her, but hide concerns with self-protective intentions when feeling less connected. Furthermore, whereas suppressing concerns with partner-protective motivation was unrelated to mental health outcomes, it was associated with worse mental health outcomes when enacted with self-protective motivation.

Second, Girme reveals the benefits of emotion suppression for partners by employing curvilinear analyses, and examining individuals who typically exhibit greater negativity. During couples’ support-relevant discussions (N = 100 dyads), greater emotion suppression by secure individuals was exponentially associated with worse partner outcomes, including greater distress, lower felt-support, and less successful discussions. In contrast, a curvilinear effect of emotional suppression emerged for highly anxious individuals, such that particularly high levels of emotional suppression was associated with positive partner outcomes.

Third, Baker and colleagues will present the results from three studies (N = 198 individuals and 120 dyads) demonstrating that the implications of emotion suppression depend on partners’ depressive symptoms. Specifically, although suppression led to greater declines in satisfaction among those with non-depressed spouses, it led to more stable satisfaction among those with depressed spouses because those spouses were perceived to be more responsive.

Finally, Le and colleagues discuss the results of a study of college students and their parents (N = 175 triads) that demonstrates that the implications of emotion regulation strategies differ for mothers and fathers. Whereas mothers’ emotion regulation strategies did not affect the quality of the relationship between mother and child, the quality of the relationship between father and child benefited when fathers suppressed negative emotions and amplified positive emotions.

Taken together, these talks demonstrate novel evidence that suppressing negative emotions in close relationships can be beneficial, given the right context.

 

Interdependence perspectives on interpersonal trust

Presenting Authors: Arriaga, Canevello, Simpson, & Wood
Organizer: Edward Lemay
Chair: Edward Lemay and Nadya Teneva

The current symposium includes four presentations exploring interdependence perspectives on interpersonal trust. According to interdependence theory, trust is a barometer of a partner’s commitment and is formed by observing the partner’s pro-relationship behaviors, a theme explored in two presentations. Wood and Cortes examine this process as it relates to low self-esteem individuals’ lack of trust in their partners. Consistent with this interdependence perspective, they find that partners of low self-esteem individuals are less responsive than partners of high self-esteem individuals, suggesting that the lack of trust exhibited by low self-esteem individuals may derive from their partner’s behavior. Similarly, Arriaga and Kumashiro describe their Attachment Security Enhancement Model, which blends interdependence and attachment frameworks to suggest the specific behaviors enacted by partners that may help individuals develop more trust in their relationships. Furthermore, interdependence theoretical perspectives posit that trust is critical to relationship quality because trust produces cognitions, motivations, and behaviors that bolster relationship quality. In turn, these pro-relationship responses may reinforce subsequent trust, creating a positive feedback loop. The final two talks explore these issues. Simpson presents a behavioral observation study of “strain-test” discussions that highlight the important top-down influence of trust. Chronic trust promoted more accommodating behavior, receptivity to the partner’s accommodation, positive perceptions of the partner’s behavior, and maintenance of trust during threatening interactions. Canevello presents complementary research suggesting the important role of pro-relationship motivation in maintaining trust following trust-threatening events. Participants with more compassionate goals, an index of pro-relationship motivation, were more likely to forgive their partners and emphasize relationship maintenance following their partner’s enactment of trust-threatening transgressions. In contrast, participants with selfish motivation enacted more defensive responses and were less forgiving following these events. Collectively, the research presented in this symposium underscores the utility of taking an interdependence perspective on trust, and suggests that trust has multiple functions, including as a sensitive barometer of the partner’s responsiveness, a source of bias in perceiving the partner’s behavior, and a motivator of pro-relationship behavior.

 

New directions in dyadic coping

Presenting Authors: Anderegg, Gamarel, Horne, & Messerschmitt
Organizer: Vanetina Anderegg
Chair: Ashley Randall

Stress is an all too common experience for individuals and couples around the world; however, researchers and clinicians are now focusing on how couples can cope with various stressors by engaging in dyadic coping (Falconier, Randall, & Bodenmann, 2016). Broadly defined, dyadic coping (DC) refers to partners’ joint coping efforts when dealing with stress. The purpose of this symposium is to focus on new directions in DC research. We have organized the papers into two themes: first looking at the effects of anticipated stigma stress, and then developmental issues related to DC as they relate to parenthood. The first paper by Messerschmitt and Randall describes the moderating effect of DC on the association between anticipated stigma stress for marriage undergraduate students and reported symptoms of anxiety. The second paper by Gamarel and colleagues describes the buffering effect of commitment (a potential precursor of optimal dyadic coping) on the association between stigma and anxious symptoms in transgender women and their non-transgender male partners. The third paper by Johnson and colleagues describe the results study examining the developmental course of supportive DC, or the frequency with which one provides practical and emotional support when his or her partner encounters stress. The final paper by Anderegg and colleagues addresses how the transition to parenthood may affect couples’ DC behaviors and relationship satisfaction, and whether relationship education may strengthen couples’ relationships by engaging in DC.

The four papers highlight the importance of understanding how DC may buffer negative effects of stress, broadly defined, on individual and relational well-being. These findings have implications for future research, which can examine specific stressors (such as anticipated stigma stress), and novel applications of DC considering challenging and/or stigmatizing contexts.

 

Relationship receptivity: On desiring and being ready for commitment

Presenting Authors: Agnew, Hadden, & Tan
Organizer: Kenneth Tan
Chair: Christopher Agnew

Timing matters in relationships. At any given time, an individual knows (a) whether they desire to be involved in a relationship (be it casual or committed), and (b) whether they feel ready to form or remain in a partnership. Interdependence theory has been a major driving force explicating factors that underlie relationship initiation, maintenance, and stability, yet research from this theoretical perspective has largely neglected the temporal aspect of relationships. This symposium focuses on a new theory of relationship development, with timing at its core: relationship receptivity theory. The theory centers around two distinct yet related components of one’s receptivity to a relationship: commitment desirability and commitment readiness. These constructs are useful in understanding relational cognitions and behaviors, as well as in predicting important relationship outcomes, among those both currently involved in and not involved in a romantic relationship. Symposium speakers will present the theory and recent empirical findings on receptivity, including results from cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental investigations. More specifically, the four talks in this symposium will (1) introduce the theory and lay out its key claims and assumptions, (2) present data in support of the role of commitment desirability in understanding initiation, maintenance and stability of committed relationships, (3) present data in support of the role of commitment readiness in understanding initiation, maintenance, and stability of committed relationships, and (4) present data regarding hypothesized antecedents of desiring commitment and feeling ready for it.

Presentations

(Alphabetically by presenting author’s last name)

The lost love and the pursuit of alternatives: A Facebook case study

Irum Abbasi, Neelam Rattan
San Jose State University, San Jose, USA

Falling in love at the first sight is easier than retaining the love for the everafter. Many romantic couples face a gradual decline in love and emotional attachment; however, not all couples reach emotional disengagement (disaffection) in their relationship. Researchers assert that an emotional attachment and a commithubment to the romantic partner is an important element in a long-term happy relationship. Technological communications exacerbate the effects of marital disaffection by readily offering a plethora of virtual potential alternatives to fill the emotional void. The current study examined the associations between marital disaffection and Facebook intrusion amongst 483 adults (ages 18 to 67 years) who were either currently married or were in a committed romantic relationship. The results revealed that there is a significant positive relationship between marital disaffection and Facebook intrusion. Mediation analyses showed that relationship commitment partially mediated the relationship between marital disaffection and Facebook intrusion. The moderation analysis showed that the relationship commitment positively affected the strength of the relationship between marital disaffection and Facebook intrusion. The implications and limitations of the study are addressed.

 

Relationship Receptivity Theory

Christopher Agnew1, Benjamin Hadden1, Kenneth Tan2
1Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA, 2Singapore Management University, Singapore

Timing matters in relationships. At any given time, an individual knows (a) whether they desire to be involved in a relationship (be it casual or committed), and (b) whether they feel ready to form or remain in a partnership. This presentation will present an argument in favor of considering the importance of temporally-contingent receptivity factors in predicting relationship stability. The concept of commitment receptivity (desiring commitment and feeling ready for a committed relationship) is described, defined as the subjective sense of wanting to be in a committed relationship, of feeling ready for one at a given time. After briefly reviewing the concept of commitment from the perspective of interdependence theory, I describe what relationship receptivity is at the individual and dyad level and discuss why I believe it improves the prediction of nonmarital romantic relationship stability beyond existing constructs. I present a newly developed scale assessing the two aspects of receptivity, and provide validation from multiple samples. In addition, I lay out an agenda of topics that could be fruitfully explored under the rubric of the theory.

 

Antecedents of commitment readiness and desirability

Christopher Agnew1, Benjamin Hadden1, Kenneth Tan2
1Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA, 2Singapore Management University, Singapore

Relationship receptivity theory posits that a critical factor underlying relationship maintenance and stability is one’s perceived readiness for commitment. In previous longitudinal research, commitment readiness (defined as the subjective sense of feeling ready for a committed relationship at a given time) was found to be significantly associated with romantic initiation three months later among individuals not involved at Time 1, as well as with greater commitment among those who were involved in a romance at Time 1. The current research examined hypothesized antecedents of commitment readiness and desirability. Consistent with theoretical assumptions, greater readiness was hypothesized to be associated with a number of factors, including (a) not ruminating about past relationship partners, (b) knowing more of what one wants in a committed partner, (c) feeling that one is done “sowing wild oats”, (d) having more positive expectations regarding relationships, and (e) being less selfish. Among relevantly-aged females, greater readiness was also hypothesized to be associated with a sense that one’s “biological clock” is nearing the end, and among younger males, with perceiving that one’s hormonal drive is lower. In two cross-sectional studies, involving college students and MTurk participants, significant associations in hypothesized directions were found for each antecedent. For those currently in a relationship, associations continued to be significant when controlling for current commitment level. Furthermore, with data from a sample of individuals not currently involved in a romantic relationship, we provide initial evidence that an antecedent for commitment desirability lies in perceptions of past romantic relationship satisfaction.

 

Dyadic coping and relationship satisfaction across the transition to parenthood

Valentina Anderegg1, Guy Bodenmann1, Christelle Benz-Fragnière3, Wim Nieuwenboom3, W. Kim Halford2
1University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, 2University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 3University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW, Olten, Aarau, Switzerland

Becoming parents is often a joyous but also stressful event for couples. There are several changes accompanying parenthood that are likely to challenge the daily life of young parents. E.g.lack of sleep, change in role division of household tasks and caring, unmet expectations, reduced time spent exclusively as couple, increased rate of relationship conflicts, and general deterioration in communication. Aboutone third of the couples become clinically distressed and 40% report a small to moderate decline in relationship satisfaction by 18 months after birth.While some of the negative effects of the transition to parenthood (e.g. irregular sleeping rhythm, insecurity with child rearing) can diminish over time and might not require intervention, other problems such as low dyadic coping, low relationship satisfaction can exacerbate over time. In a national randomized controlled trial of Couple Care and Coping Program (CCC-P), the effects of an intervention for couples becoming parents were being tested. Two hundred and eighty couples were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (high dose vs. low dose vs. treatment as usual). This paper presents general development of dyadic coping and relationship satisfaction across the transition to parenthood as well as some preliminary results of the intervention effects.

 

Interdependent relationships and attachment security enhancement

Ximena Arriaga1, Madoka Kumashiro2
1Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA, 2Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK

Arriaga and Kumashiro will describe the Attachment Security Enhancement Model (ASEM), which examines the relational bases of attachment security. ASEM blends interdependence and attachment frameworks to suggest different trajectories through which individuals may become less anxious or less avoidant. Specific processes involve mitigating immediate relational tension and amplifying security-enhancing moments. The talk will examine relevant relationship dynamics, key ideas, and supporting findings.

 

The implications of emotional suppression depend on partners’ depressive symptoms

Levi Baker1, Loren Weckbacher1, James McNulty2
1University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA, 2Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA

Successfully maintaining close relationships requires intimates to be responsive to their partners’ needs, and one important way that intimates become aware of those needs is through their partners’ emotional expressions. Indeed, a consistent body of research suggests that intimates who suppress their emotions experience less satisfying relationships over time because their partners are less aware that they should provide support. Nevertheless, given that depressed individuals are typically less responsive to their partners’ needs, intimates who express (vs. suppress) their emotions to a depressed partner may become more aware of their partners’ unresponsiveness. We tested this idea in three studies. In Study 1, participants reported their depressive symptoms, imagined that their partners needed support, and reported the extent of support they would provide (N = 100). In Study 2, participants imagined suppressing or expressing their emotions after a stressful day, imagined their partner was responsive or unresponsive, and reported their relationship satisfaction (N = 98). In Study 3, newlyweds reported their tendency to suppress their emotions, depressive symptoms, perceptions of their partners’ responsiveness, and marital satisfaction every year for two years (N = 120 dyads). Results from these studies indicated that depressed partners are less responsive, and people are more satisfied with their relationships to the extent that they express their emotions with responsive partners, but suppress their emotions with less responsive partners. These findings highlight the important roles played by depression and context in interpersonal communication.

 

So what’s the big deal?: Relationship contingent self-esteem, assessment of betrayal severity, and forgiveness  

Thomas N. Ballas1, Camilla S. Øverup1, Lee J. Dixon2
1Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, New Jersey, USA, 2University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, USA

When events occur within a relationship, it is normal and healthy to be impacted and feel invested in the outcome (Aron & Aron, 1996; Cross & Morris, 2003; Rusbult, 1983). Relationship-contingent self-esteem (RCSE), a unique type of self-esteem that occurs when an individual hinges their self-worth on the nature of the relationship, can be maladaptive (Knee et al., 2008). RCSE has been linked to varying emotional responses; it is important to understand how RCSE influences an individual post-betrayal in a romantic relationship. It is hypothesized that individuals with higher RCSE will assess a betrayal within their romantic relationship as less severe and will be more likely to feel higher levels of benevolence towards the betrayer. These associations will be serially mediated by investment and commitment to the relationship. One hundred and twenty six undergraduate students in romantic relationships were recruited from a Midwestern university. Participants described a betrayal within their relationship and completed questionnaires assessing the severity of the betrayal and personal characteristics, including RCSE, attachment, investment in and commitment to the relationship, and feelings of benevolence toward the partner. Serial multiple mediation analyses (Process, model 6; Hayes, 2013) revealed that greater RCSE was associated with greater investment, which was associated with greater commitment. This greater commitment was associated with perceiving that the betrayal was less severe, and with feeling more benevolent toward the partner. These results demonstrate individuals with high RCSE may be more likely to stay in maladaptive relationships due to a unique degree of commitment.

 

Emotional reactions to first intercourse among a sample of predominately urban youth of color

Anita Barbee, Michael Cunningham, Becky Antle
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA

Sprecher (2014 and Sprecher, Barbee & Schwartz, 1995) studied the retrospective reports of college student emotional reactions to first intercourse over three decades and found that while differences between males and females narrowed, the finding that males reported experiencing more pleasure and anxiety but less guilt than did females persisted over time. While this work was groundbreaking, because it was conducted at a Midwestern University, 87% of the participants were white and many came from rural areas. We know less about the emotional reactions to first intercourse among urban youth who are predominately youth of color (e.g. O’Sullivan & Hearn, 2008). We hypothesized that a sample with urban African American and Hispanic youth would be more positive about first intercourse than those in a sample with rural predominately white youth, but that the gender differences would be similar. Data were collected from 1342 youth participating at time one in larger study on teen pregnancy prevention. The youth in the sample were 88% Black, 10% White, 4.3% Hispanic and 2% Asian and ranged in age from 14 to 19 with the mean age of 15.7. Sixty-two percent were girls. Most youth (56%) reported feeling happy. More boys experienced pleasure than did girls (59% vs 43%, Chi Square = 77.55, p < .001) but more girls experienced anxiety (36% vs 16%, Chi Square = 120.41, p < .001) and girls experienced 5 times more guilt than did boys (34% vs 7%, Chi Square = 74.80, p < .001). Results will be explained.

 

The interplay between potential partners’ attachment styles shapes cortisol patterns and closeness during friendship initiation

Lindsey Beck1, Sarah Ketay2
1Emerson College, Boston, MA, USA, 2University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT, USA

Initiating close relationships is a central human motivation. Therefore, it is essential to understand the processes involved in the formation of close relationships. The present study examined how the interplay between potential friends’ attachment styles shapes their cortisol patterns and feelings of actual and desired closeness during friendship initiation. Participants (N=154, 77 dyads) interacted with a potential friend (i.e., another same-gender participant with whom they had been randomly paired) on tasks involving high or low closeness. Salivary cortisol was measured at four time points throughout the experiment. Participants in the high closeness condition took turns answering guided questions that increased in levels of self-disclosure. Participants in the low closeness condition took turns playing a geography game and answering questions about a written passage. Following the interaction, participants indicated their actual and desired closeness during the interaction. Results from multi-level modeling showed that the interplay between both participants’ attachment avoidance predicted each individual’s cortisol levels; participants showed the highest cortisol levels when there was mismatch between their own and their partners’ levels of attachment avoidance (i.e., when they were low in avoidance and their partners were high in avoidance or when they were high in avoidance and their partners were low in avoidance). Furthermore, the interplay between both participants’ attachment anxiety predicted each individual’s feelings of closeness; participants both felt and wanted the most closeness with partners when both they and their partners were low in attachment anxiety. These findings contribute to understanding processes by which attachment styles influence relationship initiation.

 

Sometimes the truth hurts: how interpersonal trust and feedback messages impact relational outcomes

Lance K. Bennett, Rachel M. McLaren
The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA

This research examines how interpersonal trust affects perceived understanding of feedback given by a relational partner. According to Griffin (1967), interpersonal trust deals with reliance upon the communication behavior of another person in order to achieve a desired but uncertain objective in a risky situation. Both interpersonal trust and distrust can be enacted by a variety of reasons, including the reliability of source information; intentions toward the listener; perceived communication patterns of the speaker by the listener; and personal attraction to the speaker. This study applies relational framing theory and examines how interpersonal trust serves as predictor of relational consequences, corresponds with provider feedback, and hurt feelings. People can provide various types messages that can be related to feedback, some aimed at demanding the receiver to engage in specific behaviors (i.e., assertive messages). Others encourage receivers to reflect on certain aspects of the situation (i.e., inductive messages.) Participants (n = 300) will complete a Qualtrics questionnaire that assesses both trust of the feedback and the source. Subjects will be assigned to experimental conditions to assess the extensiveness of the feedback messages. Results of this study will help future research better understand the relational outcomes of different message types.

 

Examining coping differences: a look at individual and communal coping’s impact within the mental health of dyads

Amanda Bermudez, Kristin Mickelson
Arizona State University, Glendale, AZ, USA

The process of coping is integral to understanding stress. Coping has typically been examined as an individual process, but more recently researchers have proposed that coping can also be a communal process.  To date, relatively few studies have empirically examined communal coping; furthermore, to our knowledge, no one has compared the effectiveness of communal versus individual coping with a stressor.  Using data on a sample of first-time parents, we were able to examine the mental health outcomes of couples throughout the transition to parenthood based on their respective coping approach.  Pregnancy and first-time parenting is a time in a dyadic relationship with increased stress for both partners; however, some may take a communal coping approach while others maintain an individual approach to coping with the stress. We propose a model to better understand the process by which each type of coping approach influences postpartum depression symptoms. Specifically, we examine couple communication, indirect support seeking and spousal support as three primary pathways for coping’s effect on mental health in new parents.

 

Relationship commitment and romantic advice seeking: own and outsider perspectives

Ezgi Besikci, Christopher Agnew
Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA

The current research examined romantic advice seeking, an important communicative process operating between an individual involved in a romance and their social referents. Based on theory and past findings, we hypothesized that greater relationship commitment is associated with lower advice seeking. We examined (1) the hypothesized association between one’s own commitment and romantic advice seeking, and (2) whether someone outside of the romance, when provided with commitment information about the involved intimates, would also respond regarding the intimates’ advice seeking as predicted. In Study 1, we tested the association between commitment and romantic advice seeking, as well as the hypothesized meditational roles of relationship conflict, problem-solving efficacy, and disclosure about the romance, in this association. Findings suggested that higher levels of commitment were associated with less perceived conflict in the relationship and more perceived efficacy in solving problems within the dyad, which, in turn, was associated with less negative disclosure about the romance and lower likelihood of seeking advice. In Study 2, we tested experimentally the effect of perceiving commitment by an outsider on the perceived likelihood of one’s seeking advice about relationship problems. Findings revealed that when an outsider reads about a hypothetical friend’s romance described as highly committed, the outsider expected the friend to disclose more about positive aspects and less about negative aspects of their romance, as compared to those who read about a friend’s romance described as low in commitment. We also found marginally significant differences in expected likelihood of advice seeking from an outsider’s perspective.

 

The effect of helicopter parenting, parental overinvolvement, support, and advice on college community, psychological, and academic adjustment: a comparison of us domestic students and chinese international students in the us

Elizabeth Dorrance Hall1, China Billott-Verhoff2, Cen Yue2, Steven R. Wilson2, Jenna McNallie3
1Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA, 2Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA, 3Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Scholars and practitioners are concerned that helicopter parenting (i.e., typically well-intentioned but overinvolved and protective parents; Cline & Fay, 1990) has negative effects on (adult) child wellbeing (Padilla-Walker & Nelson, 2012). Despite these claims, parental involvement to a certain extent remains desirable (Froiland et al., 2013) and the link between the family environment and helicopter parenting remains largely unexplored (Odenweller et al., 2014). This study asks whether overparenting does indeed stifle emerging adult growth, and whether these effects differ by culture.

This study tests multiple mediation models to understand the link between helicopter and overparenting and student success outcomes including community (e.g., belonging), psychological (e.g., depression), and academic adjustment in a sample of first-year US (N = 430) and international Chinese students (N = 96) attending a large Midwestern university. We test two mediators previous research has identified as important in adjustment to college, family support and advice quality from mothers and fathers (Dorrance Hall et al., 2016), that may explain the relationship between over/helicopter parenting and adjustment outcomes.
Finally, this study is interested in how this process differs for US domestic students and Chinese international students.

Cultural norms likely impact how students perceive appropriate and helpful parenting behaviors. What constitutes overparenting is likely culturally specific (e.g., tiger moms in China), yet extant overparenting research has been on US samples exclusively. Cultural norms about parenting may lead to different interpretations of involvement behaviors (Goldsmith & Fitch, 1997) which then in turn impact student adjustment to college uniquely.

 

“I’m supposed to be perfect, but what if I’m not”: An examination of college students’ uncertainty, emotion, and avoidance of mental health discussions with their parents 

Jenny Rosenberg, Rachael E. Bishop
State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, NY, USA

The purpose of this study is to investigate young adults’ communicative avoidance in discussing their mental health with their parents. The family context presents a particularly interesting and important context for the examination of mental health discussions and avoidance due to the interdependent nature of parent-child relationships that govern these types of disclosures. Parents are often determined to provide instrumental support in an effort to solve problems their young adult children face. Yet, college students may find themselves particularly reluctant to discuss mental health challenges they experience, not only because of the associated stigma (often accompanied by self-conscious emotions of embarrassment, shame, and guilt), but also because they do not want to cause their parents worry. Guided by the Theory of Motivated Information Management (TMIM), this paper examines the roles uncertainty and emotion play, particularly how they relate to self-presentation, which is threatened when contemplating discussing mental health with important others, such as parents. In accordance with TMIM, cognitive as well as communicative considerations are also taken into account as they relate to college students’ decision-making to avoid conversations with their parents regarding their mental health. Results, directions for future research, and implications for young adults’ long-term well-being are also discussed.

 

Perseverance and passion for one’s partner: Exploring grit in a relational context

Alexandra E. Black, Harry T. Reis
University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA

In the context of achievement settings, grit is defined as the, “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (Duckworth et al., 2007). This reflects the tendency to work hard despite experiencing setbacks and also to not frequently change goals or interests (Crede, Tynan, & Harms, 2016). Currently, there is no available measure to assess grit in a relational context. We developed a scale measuring the construct of grit in romantic relationships. Mirroring its definition in achievement settings, relationship grit refers to the dedicated pursuit of goals to maintain and improve one’s relationship. This inclination is fueled by the motivation of a genuine and consistent interest in one’s partner throughout time. Data were collected from a ResearchMatch sample (n=597) of individuals in committed, monogamous relationships of at least four months. Over and above the effects of relationship satisfaction, commitment, and gender, grit was found to significantly predict constructive conflict resolution, relational approach and avoidance motivations, minding the relationship, fun, compassionate goals, communal strength, and relational trust. The evidence that grit is positively associated with relationship approach goals and negatively associated with relationship avoidance goals implicates the possibility of an inconsistent mediation model with satisfaction and commitment. Further explanation of this construct is needed to explore its unique contribution to understanding relationship maintenance and deterioration.

 

Relationship maintenance through the endorsement of destiny beliefs

Craig Brinkman, Sandra Murray
University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA

Even among the most successful romantic relationships, people may wish to improve aspects of their partner. While the desire to regulate the partner may be well intended, these attempts may be interpreted negatively, as regulation attempts imply the partner possesses some fault(s). Thus, partner regulation attempts may pose a threat to the relationship.

People may respond to relationship threats in a number of ways. The current research explored a novel way that people might respond to the damaging implications of partner regulation attempts: modifying their implicit theories of relationships (ITRs). People hold naïve, implicit theories regarding the nature of romantic relationships, referred to as destiny and growth beliefs. Research on ITRs often focuses on how these broad theories can shape our perceptions and interpretations of relationship-relevant information. The current research extends this literature by examining the role of desired partner change in shaping ITRs.

Results of the present study revealed that high (but not low) self-esteem (HSE) participants who recalled partner regulation attempts (vs. control) reported differences in ITRs–– specifically, greater endorsement of destiny beliefs. This suggests endorsing destiny beliefs allowed HSEs to strengthen their relationships by downplaying the significance of regulation attempts. That is, partner regulation attempts become trivial if people believe their relationships are destined to succeed. Thus, modified ITRs may serve as a relationship-promoting bias in response to the threat of regulation attempts. Results also speak to the impact of partner regulation attempts, as they may alter people’s broad, overarching theories of the nature of romantic relationships.

 

Sexual satisfaction and marital happiness in the middle years of marriage:  A dyadic examination given the contexts of gender and race.

Randal D. Brown1, M. Rosie Shrout1, Terri L. Orbuch2, Daniel J. Weigel1
1University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, Nevada, USA, 2Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, USA

Sexual satisfaction is a vital component of long-term, happy relationships (e.g., Byers, 2005; Rehman et al., 2011).  Yet, few studies have examined the links between sexual satisfaction and marital happiness over time and specifically after a relationship has already been established.  The present study addresses this gap by examining the links between sexual satisfaction and marital happiness during the middle years of marriage, both dyadically and longitudinally over-time. The present study also examines differences given the contexts of gender and race.

Data were collected as part of the Early Years of Marriage Project, a longitudinal panel study of 373 couples.  In the current study, relevant happiness and sexual satisfaction measures during Years 7 and 16 of marriage were analyzed.  Results suggest that both sexual satisfaction and marital happiness are stable between Years 7 and 16 of marriage.  Dyadic analyses indicate that one’s own sexual satisfaction is a significant predictor of their own marital happiness in Year 16, even when controlling for marital happiness in Year 7.  This finding varied by gender, such that the effect of sexual satisfaction on marital happiness was stronger for wives.  Results also indicate that Black couples reported significantly higher sexual satisfaction than White couples.  This study highlights the important links between sexual satisfaction and marital happiness over time in long-term relationships.

 

Transferring connections: Friend and sibling relationships in the lives of singles

Claudia Brumbaugh
Queens College, CUNY, Queens, NY, USA

It is surprising that single people are neglected as a target group of study in social psychological research, given that 2015 U.S. census bureau data indicate approximately 50% of American adults are unmarried and 6% of people will be single their entire lives. Another often overlooked research area is the study of how sibling and friend relationships impact people’s lives and well-being. The goal of the current study was to bring together these important yet understudied areas of research by using attachment theory and a social-cognitive transference paradigm to examine how siblings and friends influence young adults’ understanding of their social worlds, and to determine if people rely on sibling and friend relationships differently, depending on whether they are single or romantically involved. Via the experimental transference paradigm, I found that attachment transferred to new individuals who resembled friends and siblings, and this process was especially true for single people. People generally tended to feel more secure toward the target that resembled their friend, and those who reported that their closest sibling was female had better outcomes than those who were closest to male siblings. Having more siblings corresponded to greater attachment security for all participants, and larger friend networks buffered singles specifically from attachment insecurity. In general, friend and sibling relationships appeared to be more influential for single individuals, pointing to the importance of these significant others in singles’ lives.

 

I want to tell you but I can’t:  How ambivalence over emotional expression varies by type of relationship and emotion

Julie Brunson1, Camilla Øverup2, Qian Lu3
1Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA, 2Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ, USA, 3University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA

Ambivalence over emotional expression (AEE) is experienced when conflict about disclosing emotions is felt; typically, it has been considered a stable personality trait.  However, the type of relationship the individuals in the interaction have or the particular emotion being felt is likely to also influence levels of AEE.  For example, people may feel more comfortable disclosing their emotions (and experience less regret over doing so) to individuals with whom they have a closer relationship.  In the current study, undergraduates forecasted their feelings of AEE with different individuals.  They also completed a 7-day diary in which they reported the AEE they experienced when interacting with these people.  Multilevel modeling was used to examine differences in reported AEE across five of the most common relationship types listed (friends, family, romantic partners, coworkers, acquaintances).  Results suggested that in scenarios involving the expression of anger, fear, and appreciation/affection, people generally tended to report more AEE with family than with friends, coworkers, or acquaintances.  However, in situations involving the expression of pride, individuals expressed less AEE with family than with friends, coworkers, or acquaintances.  In terms of daily AEE, participants expressed less AEE with family members than acquaintances or coworkers.  These results suggest that when investigating ambivalence over emotional expression, it may be important to consider both the relationship of the individuals in the interaction and also the type of emotion being felt.

 

A dialectical perspective of perceived humor and openness during relational turning points

Alison Buckley
The University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA

Guided by relational dialectics theory, this paper presents a study examining perceived humor use in same-sex friendships and its connection to openness during turning point experiences. Findings indicated a predictive relationship between an individual’s perception of a friend’s humor use and their own level of openness. Self-perceived humor use by participants was not shown to be a significant predictor of openness. The results from this study provide insight into perceived humor use and its influence on the management of the internal tension between openness and closedness as a part of relational progression in same-sex friendships.

 

Recovery from relationship transgressions: Integrating interpersonal motivation and posttraumatic growth

Amy Canevello
University of North Carolina Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, USA

Relationship transgressions have the capacity to undermine trust. To date, the forgiveness literature has focused on various relationship factors that lead to forgiveness and positive relationship functioning following an interpersonal transgression. This investigation takes a motivational perspective, drawing on egosystem-ecosystem theory of social motivation (Crocker & Canevello, 2008, 2015) and a model of posttraumatic growth (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1996) to examine forgiveness and relationship functioning following a transgression. We predicted that interpersonal goals would be directly related to self-centered and relationship-centered responses to transgressions, which would in turn have consequences for forgiveness, goals to validate the self vs promote relationship growth, and understanding and defensive responses when discussing transgressions. In Study 1, 233 people recalled a romantic partner’s transgression. Those higher in self-image goals to construct, maintain and defend desired images of the self reported more self-centered responses, whereas those higher in compassionate goals to support their partners had more proactive, relationship-centered responses. In Study 2, 62 romantic couples discussed a recent transgression. Self-centered responses predicted less forgiveness, whereas relationship-centered responses predicted greater forgiveness. Importantly, the consequences of these responses extended to discussions of transgressions. Self-centered responses led to increased validation-seeking, which predicted both partners’ increased defensiveness. Relationship-centered responses to transgressions predicted increased relationship growth-seeking, which predicted both partners’ increased understanding. Thus, interpersonal goals lead people to create their own and partners’ responses to transgressions through attempts to validate the self or promote relationship growth. These responses have implications for the recovery and maintenance of trust following trust-threatening events.

Do you know who you’re sleeping with? Accuracy and bias in couples’ sexual communication

Emmalene Carberry, Tricia Burke
Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA

Research suggests that people overestimate the extent to which their partners understand them (Jong & Reis, 2014, 2015). When it comes to sex, partners may ignore their declining similarity to protect their relationship (Jong & Reis, 2014). Because perceptions of similarity may be more important to sexual satisfaction than actual similarity (Simms & Byers, 2009), this study investigated couples’ accuracy and bias concerning their sexual attitudes, sexual communication, and concordant relational outcomes.

Heterosexual couples (N = 152) reported their own and their partners’ sexual attitudes and communication, and their sexual and relational satisfaction, quality of alternatives, investment size, and commitment level. Data were analyzed using Actor Partner Interdependence Models. Results showed that participants were both biased (b = 0.52, SE = 0.05, p < .001) and accurate (b = 0.28, SE = 0.05, p < .001) in their evaluations of their partners’ attitudes on sexual permissiveness. Participants were also both biased (b = 0.66, SE = 0.05, p < .001) and accurate (b = 0.24, SE = 0.05, p < .001) in their evaluations of their partners’ sexual communication. Additionally, the discrepancy between perceived and actual sexual communication predicted participants’ sexual satisfaction (b = -0.23, SE = 0.09, p = .02), relational satisfaction (b = -0.57, SE = 0.14, p < .001), quality of alternatives (b = 0.36, SE = 0.16, p = .03), and investment size (b = -0.28, SE = 0.12, p = .03). Accuracy and bias of sexual communication appears to be linked to couples’ relational quality.

 

Security based differences in the benefits of touch

Cheryl L. Carmichael
Brooklyn College & Graduate Center, CUNY, Brooklyn NY, USA

Touch between romantic partners confers a wide array of benefits including enhancing intimacy, facilitating physiological function, and buffering psychological and physiological reactivity to stress. In early life, touch is used to comfort, sooth, and bond with infants, and fosters the development of attachment security. Early models of self and other guide relationship behavior throughout life. Despite the importance of touch to the development of attachment security, little is known about how touch and attachment security are related in adulthood. This was explored in two studies.

In study 1 (N = 427 adults), attachment avoidance (characterized by desire for distance and self-control), was negatively associated with self-reported engaging in, initiating, desiring, and enjoying touch, presumably because touch is perceived as an invasion of personal space, or threatens independence. Attachment anxiety (characterized by feeling unworthy of love and fearing abandonment), however, was positively associated with the same touch variables, presumably because touch is a proximity-seeking behavior, and signals the reassurance of a romantic partner’s affections that anxiously attached people desperately desire. In study 2, a 10-day diary of coupled college students (N = 115), attachment avoidance was associated with less frequent daily touch provision to a partner, but attachment anxiety was unrelated to daily provided touch. However, the daily relational benefits associated with received touch (increased closeness, perceived responsiveness, and relationship satisfaction, and decreased stress) were amplified for people high in attachment anxiety, suggesting that anxious people benefitted more from received touch. Avoidance did not moderate daily relational benefits of touch.

 

Mobile communication technologies and relational conflict: An observational study of serial arguments

John Caughlin1, David Roaché1, Ningxin Wang1, Pusateri Kimberly2, Carolyn Huizar1
1University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA, 2Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous in personal relationships, but their impact is unclear. Most research on technologies examines zero-history relationships, but the limited work on existing relationships suggests that mobile phones may have negative implications for relational communication (Brown et al., 2016). Yet, even this work does not examine romantic relationships. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by asking whether the presence of technology affects relational conflict processes.  The study examined 63 heterosexual romantic dyads (N = 126) who were asked to discuss two conflict issues that had been discussed repeatedly in their relationship. The dyads were assigned to one of three conditions: a no technology condition (n = 18), a condition in which their mobile devices were available but participants were given no specific instructions about usage (n = 24), and a condition in which participants were instructed to hold their mobile phones and use them as they would in a typical interaction with their partner (n = 21). Preliminary results indicated that women rated their conversations as more effective in the no technology condition (M = 3.21) compared to the technology conditions (M = 2.76, p = .051), but there was no significant difference for men.  Participants also reported less uncertainty with their partner after the conversations than before them, and this decrease in uncertainty did not depend on experimental condition.  The discussion notes how enduring features of relational conflict sometimes may be more impactful than whether or not technology is present.

 

Affect regulation and adult attachment patterns when exposed to a fearful context

Jia Chong, R. Chris Fraley
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA

Among the various factors that can lead to attachment-system activation, one contributing factor that has been relatively unexplored is the presence of primal threats (e.g., darkness, unexpected noises). The current study aims to bridge this knowledge gap in the literature by investigating the way in which individual differences in attachment style predict affect regulation after exposure to fear-related stimuli (i.e., visiting a local haunted house attraction). Study results show that, on average, our sample experienced higher positive and negative affect compared to the average population. Moreover, the results also indicated that those who are more avoidantly attached reported experiencing less negative emotion. This result was not statistically significant but trended in the same direction as previous research findings. Implications for this study include an improved theoretical understanding of attachment-system functioning and the regulation of the powerful emotion of fear in threatening and uncertain contexts.

 

The relative importance of actor, partner, and similarity effects in personality predicting global evaluative and experienced well-being

William Chopik1, Richard Lucas1, Jennifer Cornman2, Deborah Carr3, Vicki Freedman4
1Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA, 2Jennifer C. Cornman Consulting, Granville, OH, USA, 3Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA, 4University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Similarity in personality is often considered one of the reasons that couples end up together. There is also evidence that partners become similar to each other with respect to psychological characteristics over time. However, do partners with similar personality traits have higher well-being? We examined actor, partner, and similarity effects of personality predicting a variety of well-being indices, both global evaluative (life satisfaction, positive/negative affect, flourishing, and relationship satisfaction) and experiential (experienced positive/negative affect). We examined these dynamics in 2,564 heterosexual couples (N = 5,128 individuals; Mage = 51.07, SD = 13.70) from the 2016 Wellbeing and Daily Life supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Across all indicators of well-being, being high in conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extraversion was associated with higher well-being. Higher levels of neuroticism were associated with lower levels of well-being. For partner effects, higher levels of conscientiousness and lower levels of neuroticism were most consistently associated with higher well-being. For similarity effects, greater similarity was generally associated with more positive and less negative well-being. However, these effects were smaller than actor and partner effects and were not present for global negative affect and experienced positive affect (although they were in a similar direction). Supplementary analyses suggested that these effects were largely invariant across age, gender, and relationship length. The mechanisms linking actor, partner, and similarity personality effects to well-being across the lifespan are discussed.

 

Agreeableness and attachment anxiety in relationships

Samuel Chung, Heike Winterheld
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, USA

The Big Five (McCrae & Costa, 1997), has been shown to have important relationships implications (Swickert, Hittner, & Foster, 2010), but findings have not always been consistent (McNulty, 2013). One way to help clarify links between the Big Five and relationship outcomes is to examine the extent to which Big Five traits interact with attachment orientations (Bowlby, 1969) to predict relationship outcomes.

Individuals high in agreeableness behave more constructively in relationships, especially during conflicts, and have greater trust in their partners. Although individuals high in attachment anxiety tend to behave more destructively in relationships, they also have excessive needs for closeness and want to avoid driving their partners away: engaging in compulsive caregiving, accommodate their partners more and refrain from expressing negative emotions. That is, highly anxious individuals show perceptions and behaviors characteristic of both high and low levels of agreeableness.

Using self-report measures, Study 1 showed that agreeableness was positively associated with trust among highly anxious individuals, but not associated among less anxious individuals.  In Study 2, dating/married couples engaged in a support discussion, and agreeableness was positively associated with accommodative behavior among highly anxious individuals and negatively associated among less anxious individuals. In addition, partners of individuals who are both highly agreeable and anxious were less satisfied with the outcome of the discussion.

 

Perceptions of first date success

Marisa Cohen
St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY, USA

To address the need for additional research during early encounters between potential couples, this exploratory study focused on first date behavior. Participants were given scenarios about first dates to elicit how specific conversations and actions alter their perception of their partners’ attraction to them.

Three hundred ninety participants were recruited using a snowball sampling technique. The sample was predominately female (75.4%), Caucasian (61.8%), and between the ages of 18 to 24 (72.3%). Participants took a researcher-designed survey via Survey Monkey, which consisted of demographic questions, as well as 30 statements detailing potential behaviors of a romantic partner on a first date. Participants were told to rate each behavior on a 5-point Likert scale to elicit their perception of how attracted their potential partner was to them.

Based on the results, males appear to use behaviors that are sexual in nature, such as redirecting the conversation to the topic of sex as a signal that their date was attracted to them. Females, on the other hand, are interested in their date’s discussion of the future. Females also use physical contact such as hugs and kisses at the end of the date as an indication that their date is attracted to them, showing that men aren’t the only ones who focus on the physical.

The implications of these results are far reaching. With a better understanding of what our actions signal to others, we can tailor our behaviors to influence the type of first impression we make.

 

Foraging for love: Predicting relationship dissolution through ratings of dyadic quality

Samantha Cohen1, Kristen Mark2, Peter Todd1
1Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA, 2University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Relationship dissolution is better predicted by interpersonal factors of quality rather than personality or environmental influences. It may be that individuals have a general idea of the quality of a relationship to expect at any given time-point and choose to dissolve relationships that fall below the “average” quality of a similar relationship. If so, individuals may consider romantic partner search a process of “foraging” for an above-average relationship, as proposed in the relationship-patch model, meaning mathematical models from ecology can be used to predict time of dissolution. Using a longitudinal sample of 200 mixed-sex couples, we developed a baseline for the average quality of a relationship at any given duration and predicted the expected relationship dissolution point for a separate sample of undergraduates. Individuals tended to dissolve relationships closer to the predicted times than expected due to chance, supporting the relationship patch model. Overall, this sheds light on how individuals evaluate relationships as compared to other resources as well as provides a powerful mechanism for predicting relationship dissolution.

 

My favorite brand retweeted me! Fostering parasocial relationships online

Charisse L’Pree Corsbie-Massay
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA

Social media and other digital technologies such as smartphone applications allow brands to engage with consumers in a manner similar to interpersonal interactions; consumers can like, share, and comment as well as engage in one-on-one interactions with brands via social networking sites. The unique capacities of this digital media platform have implications for psychologists’ understanding of social media and its role in fostering identity and engagement, even with non-human entities. By inviting consumers to engage in online conversations, brands develop an intimate parasocial relationship between the company and consumer in addition to providing perpetually available virtual customer service.

The current research explores the psychological underpinnings of brand engagement campaigns, or marketing efforts that encourage audiences to interact with content that is inspired by, associated with, or features the brand. These new media marketing strategies generate digital capital (e.g., social media shares, likes, views) and elevate the public face of the brand as well as its bottom line by deploying interpersonal psychological needs to affect consumers. Drawing on uses and gratification theory (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitz, 1973), fundamental psychosocial needs (i.e., self-esteem, belonging, control, meaningful existence; Williams & Sommer, 1997), and recent research demonstrating the neurological rewards of sharing personal content (Tamir & Mitchell, 2012), three recent campaigns (Oreo Daily Twist, 2012; Lay’s Do Us a Flavor, 2013-2014; Coca-Cola Happiness Flag, 2014) are analyzed to better understand the role of corporate entities in the development of reciprocal parasocial relationships in the digital media environment.

 

Emoji as indicators of perceived responsiveness in text messages

Maureen Coyle1, Cheryl Carmichael2
1The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, NY, USA, 2Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY, USA

This research investigated the role of emoji in the communication of perceived responsiveness-conveying understanding, validation, and care to another person-through text messages. Participants (n= 323 college students) read a text message conversation between two individuals where Person A (the discloser) discussed a negative event with Person B (the responder), who attempted to convey responsiveness. Participants were randomly assigned to review one of two versions of the conversation: Person B either used or did not use emoji in their responses. Participants rated the perceived responsiveness of Person B toward Person A in subsections of text exchanges. As hypothesized, text messages including both text and emoji were rated significantly higher in perceived responsiveness (M= 4.14, SD= 1.13) compared to the same text messages without emoji (M= 3.52, SD= 1.20), F(1, 321)= 23.23, p< .001. Interestingly, there were marginally significant differences found between the text-only responses across conditions even though the displayed responses were the same, Brown-Forsythe F(1, 319.75)= 3.63, p= .058. On average, text-only responses in the emoji condition were perceived as marginally more responsive (M= 4.70, SD= 1.34) than text-only responses in the no emoji condition (M= 4.39, SD= 1.55). There may have been a carryover effect such that Person B’s use of emoji in some replies fostered a global perception of responsiveness and influenced the perception of text-only replies as more responsive. Emoji may serve as paralinguistic cues within text messages to convey traditional nonverbal behavior that contribute to responsiveness.

 

Building strong families: How does family instability, coparenting quality, and father involvement explain child development outcomes?

Melissa Curran1, Melissa Barnett1, Katie Paschall2
1University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA, 2University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA

Financial instability undermines familial and child wellbeing. Yet as informed by family stress process models, other sources of instability also disrupt family and individual functioning, including instability in family structure (e.g., multipartner fertility) and instability in romantic relationship quality (e.g., high relationship conflict). In contrast, both coparenting quality and positive father involvement contribute to familial wellbeing. Our aim is to examine how father involvement and coparenting quality mediate associations between each form of instability and preschool children’s behavior problems and language development. Data are from the Building Strong Families program, which served unmarried, romantically involved predominantly low-income couples who were expectant or new parents (N=3,452 individuals). Mothers and fathers were interviewed at baseline, and 15 and 36-months post-intervention.

We computed a Structural Equation Model using Full Information Maximum Likelihood to account for missing data (RMSEA=.040; CFI=.874). Surprisingly, the three family instability indexes were not directly or indirectly associated with child development outcomes. Coparenting quality predicted lower externalizing and internalizing problems in children, suggesting that coparenting is an effective intervention target among unmarried parents. For father involvement, when fathers were observed to engage in harsh parenting, their children demonstrated more behavior problems and smaller vocabularies, suggesting the value of interventions to improve the quality of fathers’ parenting are valuable. In contrast, asking fathers to contribute more financially to their children may have unintended consequences, as fathers’ financial contributions were linked to higher child internalizing problems. These findings underscore the complexity of “responsible fatherhood,” especially among low-income families.

 

Cognitive information seeking and relationship awareness during the early stages of relationship development.

Bret Davis, Daniel Weigel
University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USA

The early stages of romantic relationships can be filled with uncertainty, particularly when determining whether or not one has entered into an actual relationship. Experiencing uncertainty generally motivates people to engage in information seeking in order to reduce it. However, relationship goals may differ based upon their current stage of development (i.e., emerging adulthood, adulthood etc.), thus cognitive information seeking may affect different aspects of relationship awareness, between emerging adults and adults. Relationship awareness was defined as a process of information seeking to come to a judgment as to whether or not someone has entered into a relationship. Additionally, research has shown that people rely on relationship scripts and (relationship and partner) ideals as a source of information to evaluate their relationship status. The purpose of this study was to understand how people engage in cognitive information seeking to become aware that they have entered into a romantic relationship, and to see if this process differs between emerging adults and adults. This study surveyed emerging adults (ages 18-25) and adults (ages 26 and up) to test a proposed model of cognitive information seeking and relationship awareness. SEM results confirmed that participants relied on cognitive information to become aware of the status of their relationship. Furthermore, the results revealed that cognitive information seeking fully mediated the relationship between relationship uncertainty appraisals and relationship awareness. Lastly, the results suggest that participant engagement in cognitive information seeking to become aware of their relationship was stable between emerging adulthood and adulthood.

 

Validation of a relationship sense of coherence measure

Bret Davis, M. Rosie Shrout, William Evans, Daniel Weigel
University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USA

All relationships experience stress, even those that are highly satisfying. In some cases, exposure to ongoing stress can strain relationships and potentially lead to relationship dissolution; meanwhile, other couples successfully manage the inevitable ups and downs of relationships. Although much progress has been made in understanding stress in romantic relationships, we believe that sense of coherence (SOC) can contribute to the relationship and stress literature by providing a new framework for examining how couples adapt to ongoing stress, by directly linking romantic relationships and health promotion. SOC focuses on moving toward the health pole on the disease-health continuum, thus we can examine the link between romantic relationships and health, particularly in times of stress. The purpose of this research was to develop a new relationship sense of coherence measure (RSOC), which we tested over the course of four studies (N=939). The RSOC demonstrated good overall fit across samples of students, MTurk participants, and individuals with invisible chronic health conditions (e.g., autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, mental illnesses). Additionally, the RSOC demonstrated construct, convergent, and discriminate validity, as well as test-retest reliability. Further, RSOC was related to lower perceptions of stress and predicted relationship stability and dissolution over 3-months. We believe this new measure will have value for researchers and practitioners interested in understanding how couples can thrive even during stressful times.

 

Touch and well-being: Do avoidantly attached individuals react differently to touch?

Anik Debrot1, Jennifer Stellar4, Geoff MacDonald2, Andrea B. Horn3, Emily A. Impett4
1University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, 3University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland, 4University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada

Touch from the romantic partner is beneficial for well-being. However, little is known about who is more or less likely to benefit from touch. From an attachment perspective, touch represents a solid proof of closeness and availability. However, not everybody is equally comfortable with closeness. For avoidantly attached individuals, closeness can be experience as a threat. We thus hypothesize that avoidant attachment would lower the positive association of touch with well-being. We tested this prediction in three cross-sectional datasets. In Study 1 (N = 1604 individuals in a relationship), avoidant attachment was negatively associated with several touch attitudes (e.g. given and received touch, enjoyment of touch, comfort with touch, etc.). Moreover, it moderated the association between touch and well-being, however only with one of the well-being indicators, and avoidantly attached individuals benefited more and not less from touch. In Study 2 (N = 162 couples) and 3a (N = 81 couples), no moderation was found. A mini meta-analysis revealed significant main effects: touch was associated with well-being; attachment avoidance is related to lower well-being and lower touch in the couples. However, avoidant attachment did not moderate the association between touch and well-being. This shows that, even if more avoidantly attached individuals report less touch in their relationship, they benefit equally from it. The results will be discussed regarding their individual and relational implications for avoidantly attached, and will build the base for further investigations using more micro-analytical methods (videotaped interactions in Study 3b, and daily diary data in Study 4).

 

Cross-cultural variations in premarital romantic and sexual experiences among young adults in India and the USA

Barani Ganth Devarajan, Manfred H.M van Dulmen
Department of Psychological Sceinces,Kent State University, kent,Ohio, USA

The current study explores cultural differences in premarital romantic and sexual relationships as well as their associations with psychopathological symptoms and psychological well-being among young adults in India and the United States of America. We aim at including 300 young adults from each country as participants (N=600; thus far, we have collected data from 345 American participants and 250 Indian participants.). US participants were recruited through a subject pool at a large Public University. Participants from India were recruited through online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp in India. The protocol included measures on romantic inclination, sexual attitudes, sexual behavior, peer and media influence on romantic relationships, family functioning, psychological well-being and psychopathological symptoms. We plan to examine differences in romantic and sexual attitudes and experiences between the two groups. In addition, at the conference, we plan to present results regarding the association of romantic/sexual attitudes with psychopathological symptoms and psychological well-being. We are particularly interested as to whether cultural context moderates these effects.

 

Violence with no measure: Community-sample perceptions inform creation of a quantitative assessment of technologically-mediated abuse

Jessica Eckstein
Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, CT, USA

Recent population surveys suggest that nearly half of all U.S. adults have been psychologically abused by a partner (with 35.6% of women and 28.5% of men also physically abused). Although intimate partner violence (IPV) victims can and do use electronic resources to seek aid and social support, the same technology frequently is harnessed by perpetrators. Previously limited to in-person, third-party, and telephone/mail contact, today’s media abet perpetrators with new ways to harass, stalk, violate, and assault their victims. Despite the ubiquity of the problem, no instrument exists to measure technologically-perpetrated abuse experienced by IPV victims. The current study provides an initial step in that direction via descriptive and quantitative analyses of a community sample of individuals’ (N ≥ 565) open-ended perceptions regarding TMA. Results indicated possibilities for both why (e.g., to control, to injure) and how (e.g., phone, internet, social network) TMA is perpetrated as well as people’s perceived severity/harm of different tactics. Findings reveal myriad ways TMA can be experienced and the roles of personal (i.e., age, sex, race, religion), behavioral (i.e., technological proficiency), and experiential (i.e., prior abuse-related education, romantic relationship status) factors in affecting perceptions of TMA severity. In addition to these findings, data resulted in production of a preliminary measure of TMA to be subsequently implemented and evaluated by IPV practitioners and scholars.

 

Self-esteem and the quality of couple and coparental relationships: The mediating role of attachment.

Nahema El Ghaziri, Joëlle Darwiche
University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

A growing body of research has shown the importance of self-esteem for the couple relationship. However, the specific mechanisms explaining its positive influence are still unclear. Previous findings indicate that attachment security mediates the influence of self-esteem on the couple relationship (Erol and Orth, 2013). The aim of this study is to replicate these results with a population of parents. In the parental couple, partners are engaged in two relationships: the couple one (relationship as lovers) and the coparental one (relationship as parents). Therefore, we tested for the mediating role of attachment on the quality of both relationships.

The sample consisted of 230 heterosexual couples of parents with a child under 10 years old. Participants completed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the Coparental Scale and the short form of the Experiences in Close Relationship Scale. APIM were performed using multilevel modeling.

Attachment mediated the actor and partner effects of self-esteem on the quality of couple relationship and on negative coparenting. It also mediated the actor effects of self-esteem on the quality of positive coparenting. Consequently, high self-esteem and secure attachment appeared to be valuable resources, not only for the individual, but also for his/her partner.

Results confirm that self-esteem’s influence on the couple quality passes through attachment and show a similar path for the coparental relationship. Parents with high self-esteem are more secure in their relationship, which enhances both partners’ couple satisfaction and helps them reduce coparental conflict. It also enhances the individual’s coparental supportive behaviors.

 

Who are “we”? Couple identity clarity and romantic relationship quality

Lydia Emery, Wendi Gardner, Kathleen Carswell, Eli Finkel
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA

People vary in self-concept clarity, the extent to which they have a clear and coherent sense of who they are. We propose that just as individuals differ in self-concept clarity (SCC), those in interdependent relationships also differ in couple identity clarity (we-SCC), the extent to which they have a clear and coherent understanding of who they and their partner are as a couple. Across 3 studies, we-SCC was distinct from self-concept clarity and predicted relationship satisfaction and commitment. Self-concept clarity was associated with individual well-being, whereas we-SCC was associated with relationship well-being. Moreover, we-SCC predicted relationship quality above and beyond perceived similarity between partners or inclusion of the partner in the self. Longitudinally, we-SCC was associated with changes in relationship quality over a 9-month time period. Higher we-SCC at intake also predicted implicit positive evaluations of one’s partner 9 months later, even when controlling for explicit relationship quality. Finally, we explored actor and partner effects of we-SCC on relationship quality – that is, do both partners need to have high we-SCC for optimal relationship functioning? Preliminary data indicate that only actor we-SCC predicts actor relationship quality. Taken together, these studies suggest that we-SCC shapes relationship functioning and broaden the nascent literature on couple identities.

 

Attraction in cross-sex friendships

Beverley Fehr, Alanna Johnson
University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Attraction in Cross-Sex Friendships
Past research has shown that people actually do not perceive managing attraction as a major obstacle to maintaining cross-sex friendships. However, it is commonly assumed that cross-sex friendships are challenging, if not impossible, because one or both people may experience romantic attraction. It is also commonly assumed that romantic or sexual attraction is more likely to be experienced by the male friend. We administered a questionnaire to undergraduates (N = 188) in which we asked them about the benefits that they receive from their closest same-sex and cross-sex friend and assessed their degree of attraction and the attraction they perceived from their friend. We also included an implicit measure of attraction and a mate value scale. Women and men did not differ significantly in terms of their level of attraction to a cross-sex friend, nor in their perceptions of how attracted their friend was to them. These findings were moderated by mate value, such that men who saw themselves as being a good “catch” perceived more attraction from their cross-sex friend than men who scored lower. For women, mate value was uncorrelated with perceived attraction. However, women who rated themselves as high on mate value scored higher on our implicit measure of attraction than did women who scored lower. These findings suggest that both women and men who see themselves as desirable mates are more likely to infer that their cross-sex friends are attracted to them, but women may be more reluctant to admit it.

 

Online dating preferences and attractiveness: A two-mode ERGM network analysis

Diane Felmlee, Alina Lungeanu, Derek Kreager
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

Online dating networks often display strong patterns of homophily, or “horizontal” matching, where participants seek out partners who resemble themselves on the basis of several individual characteristics, such as attractiveness. Some studies, however, find that daters’ choices instead exhibit “vertical” sorting in which participants target more attractive individuals, for example, rather than those who are similar to them in attractiveness. Here we argue that men and women may differ in their patterns of horizontal versus vertical matching, and that these differences can be disentangled by applying a two-mode, ERGM network analysis approach.
Our data set includes 3,964 single, heterosexual users from one southwestern city and consists of 13,534 messages exchanged during one month on an online dating website. We used one-mode and two-mode Exponential Random Graph Models to test users’ matching patterns on attractiveness, race, education, and age.
Results for attractiveness are particularly intriguing. The conclusions regarding horizontal or vertical preference patterns depend on whether we use an unstandardized or standardized attractiveness measure, and whether it is treated as categorical. When using the original, unstandardized, measure of attractiveness, for example, females display significant levels of horizontal homophily, whereas males exhibit significant heterophily. That is, males choose females of differing levels of attractiveness than their own. Apparently males display vertical preferences by targeting females of higher attractiveness. When we standardize attractiveness, however, both males and females show significant levels of heterophilous sorting. Differences in the underlying distributions of attractiveness ratings for males and females contribute to the discrepancies in conclusions.

 

Intimacy, passion, commitment, and reported marital quality in love and arranged marriage

Sharon Flicker1, Farhana Afroz2, Faeqa Mohsin2, Sumaiya Nehla Saif2, Flavia Sancier1
1Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH, USA, 2Asian University for Women, Chittagong, Bangladesh

Studies of romantic love have been primarily confined to samples of Western populations. However, notions of love are thought to vary from culture to culture (Dion & Dion, 1996) and, for this reason, it is unclear if findings from Western populations are generalizable to individuals of other cultures. Furthermore, although more than half of the world’s marriages are arranged (MacKay, 2000), very little psychological research has examined the experience of love in arranged marriages. This study seeks to address this gap in the literature by comparing women’s experiences of passion, intimacy, and commitment and reported marital quality in love marriages and arranged marriages in a sample of 116 Bangladeshi women engaged or married less than three years.

As expected, controlling for length of the relationship, there were no differences in commitment, while passion and intimacy were significantly higher in love than in arranged marriages. Intimacy decreased over time for both love and arranged marriages and showed wider variability in arranged marriages than in love marriages. No changes over time or differences in variability were observed in commitment or passion in either type of marriage.

Furthermore, arranged marriages had, on average, lower positive marital quality and higher negative marital quality than love marriages.  Reported quality of the marital relationship was unrelated to length of the relationship.

Overall, findings were consistent with the hypotheses. Future research should include participants who have been married longer in order to examine how these relationship characteristics develop over time.

 

Friendship norms: An evaluation of race and gender

Sara Francisco, Diane Felmlee, Michael Gaddis
Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, USA

Several basic social norms, widely shared across cultures, govern friendships. Yet endorsement of friendship norms is likely to differ, depending on the particular gender and racial composition of the pair. Previous research finds, for example, that males tend to be less disapproving of rule-breaking than are females, especially when it involves their male friends. However, there is a lack of literature that investigates variations in reactions by race. Here we examine the degree to which race, as well as gender, influences assessments of friendship behavior with a sample from the online survey platform, Mechanical Turk. Participants evaluate violations of friendship norms described in vignettes in which the friend’s gender and race (white or African American) are experimentally manipulated. Vignettes described scenarios in which a friend challenged friendship norms (e.g., disclosed a secret, cancelled plans). We addressed two questions, first what differences exist in the approval levels of norm violations? Second, do these approval levels differ by the race and gender of the friend and participant? We hypothesize that women will disapprove more than men of a friend who violates norms of emotional closeness and trust. We also hypothesize that African Americans will receive more disapproval in norm violations in comparison to whites. In addition, we test whether individuals are more forgiving of rule-breaking on the part of a friend of the same, rather than the other, gender and race categories. Finally, in a test of contact theory, we examine the degree to which previous experience with interracial friendships modifies disapproval.

 

(Un-)shared beliefs: individual and dyadic effects of religiosity on relationship satisfaction and union stability

Katrina Frank
University of Cologne, Köln, Northrhine-Westphalia, Germany

Prior research has shown that individual religiosity is associated with elevated levels of relationship satisfaction and union stability. In recent years, the questions of whether this effect depends on the homogamy of partners’ attitudes has received increasing attention. Results have remained somewhat contradictive though and are exclusively based on US data. Drawing from Sanctification Literature and Shared Reality Theory, the present research examines whether the suggested positive effect of religiosity on relationship satisfaction and (un-)likeliness of initiating union dissolution also exists in the much more secular German context and looks into the importance of partner similarity. The results of the analysis of 2,923 individuals and their partners from seven waves of the pairfam dataset revealed a positive effect of individual religiosity but no effect of partner’s religiosity on relationship satisfaction and initiation of union dissolution. Contrary to the results from American studies, no moderating effect of gender or marital status was found. There are indicators pointing to the effect of religiosity being more pronounced in (former socialist) eastern Germany as compared to western Germany though. Despite the Shared Reality account and contrary to expectations, religious homogamy of the partners was neither associated with satisfaction nor with stability of the union, therefore suggesting that religiosity effects in the German context remain largely individual specific.

 

 

Impact of rewards and costs from partners on individuals’ commitment: The mediating role of satisfaction

Stanley Gaines, Sarah Chouman, Emma Eden, Naomi Lewis, Caroline Meara, Laura Pearson, Suzanne Rook
Brunel University London, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK

According to Thibaut and Kelley’s (1959) interdependence theory, rewards (i.e., “whatever gives pleasure and gratification to the person”; Kelley & Thibaut, 1978, p. 8) are reflected positively, whereas costs (i.e., “factors that inhibit or deter the performance of any behavior or segment of behavior”; Kelley & Thibaut, 1978, p. 8) are reflected negatively, in satisfaction (i.e., individuals’ positive versus negative affect toward a given relationship; Kelley et al., 1983/2002).  In turn, according to interdependence theory, satisfaction is reflected negatively in commitment (i.e., individuals’ intent to persist with a given relationship; Kelley et al., 2003).  Thus, in principle, satisfaction should be well-positioned to mediate the impact of rewards and costs on commitment.  However, in practice, results of studies by Rusbult and colleagues (e.g., Rusbult, 1983; Rusbult, Johnson, & Morrow, 1986) have not overtly examined the mediating role of satisfaction.  In the present study (n = 107 male-female pairs, most of whom were in romantic relationships), results of mediation analyses (following Hayes, 2013) indicated that, among both genders (and consistent with hypotheses), (1) individuals’ satisfaction partially mediated the positive effect of rewards from partners on individuals’ commitment; and (2) individuals’ satisfaction — which was a significant positive predictor of commitment– partially mediated the negative effect of costs from partners on individuals’ commitment; all direct and indirect effects of rewards and costs from partners on individuals’ commitment were significant (p‘s < .05 or lower).  Implications for individual-level and dyad-level research on interdependence processes in close relationships are discussed.

 

The Buffering Effect of Commitment in the Association Between Stigma and Anxious Symptoms: Implications for Dyadic Coping Research with Transgender Women and their Non-Transgender Male Partners

Kristi Gamarel1, Jae Sevelius2, Cassandra Sutten Coats1, Tooru Nemoto3, Don Operario1
1Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, 2University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA, 3Public Health Instiutes, Oakland, CA, USA

Stigma has been consistently associated with adverse mental health outcomes among transgender women and their partners. Optimal dyadic coping often occurs within couples’ who are committed to one another; however, little is known about whether commitment offsets the negative effects of stigma on mental health. The purpose of this study was to identify whether commitment moderates the associations between discrimination and anxious symptoms. To answer this aim, 191 couples consisting of transgender women and their non-transgender male partners separately completed a one-time survey. Participants’ mean age was 37.1 years; 79.1% were racial/ethnic minority; 61.3% earned <$500 per month; and the average relationship length was 3.2years. Actor-partner interdependence models (APIM) were fit to examine discrimination, commitment, and their interaction on anxious symptoms. Discrimination was positively associated with anxious symptoms for both partners (p<0.001). There were significant partner effects for both partners such that greater discrimination scores were associated with higher levels of anxious symptoms (p<0.001). For transgender women, higher commitment was associated with lower anxious symptoms (p<0.01). There was a significant interaction effect such that the negative effects of discrimination on anxious symptoms were attenuated by greater commitment for transgender women (p<0.001) but not their male partners. Findings provide preliminary support for the crossover-effects of discrimination on the mental health of both partners, and identify commitment a potential precursor of optimal dyadic coping for transgender women. This presentation will highlight the importance of considering stigmatizing contexts in promoting dyadic coping to guide interventions with transgender women and their male partners.

 

Accuracy and bias in perceptions of a romantic partner’s goal progress

Judith Gere, Jessica LaBuda
Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA

Romantic partners need to coordinate their goal pursuits successfully to ensure both partners can make progress, which partly depends on their ability to accurately perceive their partner’s goals. We examined people’s accuracy and bias (mean-level bias and projection) in perceptions of their romantic partner’s goal progress, similarity between partners’ goal progress, and potential cues (i.e., positive affect, autonomy, activity enjoyment) used to make judgments about a partner’s goal progress in joint activities. We used data from two studies to examine these issues. In Study 1, we obtained daily reports of joint activities (N = 616) from dating partners, and in Study 2, we obtained retrospective reports of partners’ recent joint activities (N = 1,228). Analyses were conducted using multilevel path models. Results across both studies indicated that people projected their own goal progress onto their partner, assuming that their partner’s goal progress was similar to their own. There was also evidence for actual partner similarity in goal progress. Perceptions of partner goal progress also showed some degree of accuracy. However, although the cues we examined were associated with partner goal progress, indicating that they were valid cues of partner goal progress, people had difficulty picking up on these cues. As a result, using the cues did not improve people’s accuracy in their perceptions of their partner’s goal progress. We found mixed evidence for mean-level bias: there was no evidence of mean-level bias in daily reports, but in retrospective reports of joint activities, people tended to overestimate their partner’s goal progress.

 

Emotion regulation strategy as a predictor of perceived responsiveness during social support

Jessica Gingrich, Courtney Peters, Sophia Golden, Katherine Zee, Niall Bolger
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Previous research suggests that individual differences in emotion regulation strategies have salient implications for psychological well-being and interpersonal functioning. Individuals who engage in expressive suppression, a conscious attenuation of emotional reactivity, tend to display less positive and negative emotion during peer interactions, which limits emotional closeness and opportunities to receive social support (Gross & John, 2003). Despite recent advances about the dyadic implications of self-regulation, there has been a limited amount of research exploring how an individual’s own emotion regulation strategy predicts the quality of support they provide to others. We hypothesized that individuals who tend to engage in expressive suppression would be perceived as less responsive by their partners when providing social support. Romantic partners (N=63 dyads) participated in a laboratory session together in which individual differences in emotion regulation strategy were measured using the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (Gross & John, 2002). Pairs then engaged in two social support conversations, such that each partner provided and received support. Consistent with existing research, recipients’ own suppression scores marginally predicted their perceptions of their partner’s responsiveness during the support conversation. In addition, results demonstrated that providers’ suppression scores significantly predicted recipients’ perceptions of responsiveness as well. These findings further our understanding of the interpersonal consequences of individual emotion regulation strategies for dyadic interactions.

 

Suppressing negativity can be good: Attachment anxiety and the curvilinear effect of expressive suppression

Yuthika Girme
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

Suppressing the expression of negative emotions has been robustly linked to a host of negative outcomes, including worse distress, social support, and relationship wellbeing. However, there are likely situations in which suppressing negative emotions might be beneficial, such as when people who typically express negativity in their intimate relationships (e.g., those high in attachment anxiety) engage in particularly high levels of expressive suppression that is required to manage their negative emotions. The current research examined this possibility, for the first time, by employing curvilinear methods to test whether particularly high levels of expressive suppression by highly anxious individuals might benefit their intimate partners during support-relevant discussions about personal goals (N = 100 dyads). The results demonstrated that the curvilinear effect of individuals’ expressive suppression on partners’ outcomes was moderated by individuals’ attachment anxiety. Consistent with the literature, for support providers low in attachment anxiety, greater reported levels of expressive suppression had an exponentially detrimental effect on support recipients’ distress, felt support, and discussion success. For support providers high in attachment anxiety, low-moderate levels of reported expressive suppression also had a detrimental effect on support recipients’ outcomes, but, moderate-to-high levels of expressive suppression reversed this effect and reduced recipients’ distress, and increased felt support and confidence in achieving their personal goal. These novel results demonstrate how employing curvilinear methods and examining specific characteristics of individuals can uncover when individuals’ expressive suppression can be beneficial for their intimate partners.

 

Don’t encroach and i’m yours: Partners’ autonomy-sensitive behaviors facilitate highly avoidant individuals’ autonomy, and thus their commitment

Yuthika Girme1, Nickola Overall2, Matthew Hammond3
1Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, 2University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, 3Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

Individuals high in attachment avoidance exhibit comparatively low levels of commitment and seek independence in order to reduce vulnerability to the hurt and exploitation that they expect from interdependence. What behaviors can partners engage in that make avoidant individuals comfortable with commitment without threatening their desired independence? We propose that facilitating avoidant individuals’ autonomy in relationships may play a crucial role in helping avoidant individuals more fully commit to a relationship. The current research investigated two ways in which partners’ autonomy-sensitive behaviors can fulfill highly avoidant individuals’ autonomy needs, and thus repair their lack of commitment. In Study 1 (N = 78 dyads), we assessed partners’ daily autonomy-sensitive behaviors, and individuals’ daily feelings of autonomy and commitment over a three-week period. In Study 2 (N = 100 dyads), we assessed partners’ autonomy-sensitive behaviors during couples’ video-recorded discussions about personal goals, individuals’ autonomy immediately after the discussions, and individuals’ autonomy and commitment every month for six months. Autonomy-sensitive behaviors involved subtle behaviors that avoided directly influencing or encroaching on individuals. Across both studies, partners’ autonomy-sensitive behaviors were associated with increases in highly avoidant individuals’ daily autonomy (Study 1), and autonomy immediately following discussions and across time (Study 2). Importantly, when highly avoidant individuals felt more autonomous in their relationships, it repaired their lack of daily commitment (Study 1) and commitment across time (Study 2). These results highlight the vital role of autonomy in facilitating better relationship outcomes, particularly for people who find it challenging to experience autonomy in interdependent relationships.

 

The unique role of capitalization support seeking and receipt in organizational identification and well-being

Courtney Gosnell
Pace University, Pleasantville, NY, USA

Past work has demonstrated the unique role that positive event support (or capitalization support) plays in fostering trust and closeness in interpersonal interactions (e.g., Reis & Gable, 2010), but has not extended this to an organizational context. We predicted positive event support (moreso than negative) may play a critical role in organizational identification and well-being. In Study 1, we found that amongst 252 military academy cadets both perceiving one received high quality positive event support and looking for positive event support from within the organization was uniquely associated with greater military identification, school satisfaction, perceiving the academy as a challenge (as opposed to threat), and greater personal well-being. Perceiving quality negative event support or looking for negative event support within the organization did not uniquely predict these outcomes. Similarly, Study 2 (which included 151 students from a liberal arts university setting) found that both looking for and receiving positive event support was associated with greater commitment and identification with the university and it was a lack of quality positive event support from the school (not negative event support) that predicted feeling like you were not “a part of the family”. This work suggests the powerful role capitalization support can play in an organizational setting and the need to extend work on capitalization to not only understand benefits for the self or for dyadic relationships, but to also consider group and organizational outcomes.

 

Not lost in translation: A dyadic model of motivation and responsiveness accuracy

Benjamin Hadden
Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA

A key aspect of adaptive romantic relationships is the perception that romantic partners respond supportively to one’s needs. Perceiving partners to be responsive, specifically, enhances satisfaction and intimacy in romantic relationship. However, providing responsive support to romantic partners is a complex and high-effort activity, and romantic partners exhibit relatively low agreement regarding responsiveness provided and received. To further understanding the dyadic underpinnings of responsiveness, we propose a dyadic model of motivation and responsiveness accuracy such that more self-determined motivation for being in a given relationship increases the agreement between romantic partner’s perceptions of responsiveness. This talk will present data from two cross-sectional dyadic samples (N1=132 dyads; N2=238 dyads) in which we assessed romantic partners’ autonomous motivation for being in their relationship as well as global perceptions of (1) how responsive they are to their partner and (2) how responsive their partner is to them. Across both samples, more self-determined individuals exhibited a stronger accuracy effect of responsiveness, such that their reported responsiveness provided was more strongly associated with their partner’s perceived responsiveness received. Moderated mediation analyses revealed that this higher accuracy effect also predicted higher partner satisfaction with the relationship. In other words, for individuals high in autonomous relationship motivation, responsiveness provision predicted partner’s satisfaction specifically because their partner reported receiving more responsive support. These results highlight the dyadic importance of autonomous relationship motivation, and suggest that motivation is an important factor in facilitating effective and responsive support giving that impacts partner’s relationship experiences.

 

Commitment readiness

Benjamin Hadden, Christopher Agnew
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Depending on a host of developmental, situational, and personality factors, people experience different levels of being “ready” for a committed relationship. This talk will present evidence from multiple samples of individuals currently involved in a romantic relationship regarding the predictive value of possessing a subjective sense that one is currently ready for commitment in terms of relationship stability. Among the cross-sectional findings to be presented from data obtained from college students and MTurk participants are that: (1) readiness adds to the Investment Model variables (satisfaction, investments, and alternatives) in predicting commitment; and (2) readiness directly predicts lower dissolution consideration, above and beyond level of commitment, and also moderates commitment’s prediction of dissolution consideration. Among the longitudinal findings to be presented from the same data sources are that (3) readiness at Time 1 predicts greater levels of satisfaction and investment, and lower levels of alternatives, at Time 2; (4) readiness at Time 1 predicts increases in commitment at Time 2; and (5) readiness at Time 1 predicts breakup 3 months later.

 

Spicing up the relationship?: Responses to relational boredom and associated challenges

Cheryl Harasymchuk, Anika Cloutier, Johanna Peetz, Janelle Lebreton, Chantal Bacev-Giles
Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Growth in relationships (i.e., experiencing new and exciting things with your partner) has been identified as a key component of relationship quality alongside the oft-studied security (Gable & Reis, 2001; Reis et al., 2016). Waxing and waning growth levels in the relationship have the potential to guide couple members to know when they should add some excitement to their relationship. The goal of this research was to examine how people respond to moments in their relationship when they feel low growth– bored. The appetitive-aversive framework (Gable & Reis, 2001; Reis et al., 2016) was used to classify shared activity responses in the face of relational boredom, namely, growth-enhancing (i.e., novel, exciting) and security-restorative (i.e., familiar, comforting) shared activities. In Study 1, people’s prescriptive and descriptive beliefs for responding to moments of relational boredom were assessed. Next, we developed a prime of relational boredom (Study 2a) and examined its effects on behavioral intentions for shared activities (Studies 2b and 3) as well as qualities of a planned date (Study 3). In Study 1, people thought they should engage in more growth-enhancing novel and exciting activities when bored (but not more security-restorative ones). However, for likelihood ratings (Study 1) and behavioural intentions (Studies 2b and 3), people did not consistently respond to boredom with more exciting shared activities; instead, people consistently displayed a pattern of being less likely to engage in security-restorative familiar shared activities. Challenges associated with adding growth to relationships through novel and exciting shared activities will be discussed.

 

Online social network use and in-person social interactions: Associations with the positivity and accuracy of personality impressions

Jennifer Heyman1, Jeremy Biesanz2, Lauren Human1
1McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, 2University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Does online social network use relate to in-person social interactions? We examined this question by exploring how indicators of Facebook use were related to both the positivity and accuracy of first impressions of personality. Specifically, in two studies, participants briefly met with 6-10 other participants and then rated each other’s personalities. Participants who reported using Facebook more (Study 1; N = 163; dyads = 519) and having more Facebook friends (Study 2; N = 171; dyads = 439) tended to form more positive first impressions. In Study 2, however, participants who reported adding more friends on Facebook tended to form less accurate and marginally less positive first impressions. All associations held controlling for psychological and relationship well-being. In sum, these results suggest greater general online social network use may imply positive social engagement that extends to in-person social interactions but that there may be some specific forms of online social network use that are less adaptive.

 

Development and validation of a measure of motives for interpersonal emotion regulation

Nicole Hilaire, Amy Canevello
University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, USA

Romantic partners often turn to one another for help in shaping their affective lives; a process known as interpersonal emotion regulation (IER). The quality or effectiveness of this support, however, may hinge on how partners orient themselves toward each other. The current research draws on the egosystem-ecosystem theory of social motivation (Crocker & Canevello, 2012) to understand how and why people regulate close other’s emotions. In the ecosystem, people see the self and others as part of a larger, interconnected system, whereas in the egosystem, people focus on their relational value to others. When people are in the ecosystem, we expect them to use strategies to regulate their partner that focus on growth, whereas when people are in the egosystem, we expect them to use strategies that are a quick fix or bandage. To test this, we developed a self-report measure of motives for regulating partners’ emotions in each system. In Study 1, we generated and tested an initial item pool using a community sample from Amazon’s mTurk. Participants reported on IER motives within the context of a current romantic relationship. Confirmatory factor analysis supported a two-factor structure for IER motives. Study 2 examined the convergent and divergent validity of the scale using a student sample. The subscales were associated with constructs from the nomological network of the egosystem-ecosystem theory and to relevant measures from the broader literature. Study 2 also provided support for predictive validity by showing IER motive scores predicted IER strategy use and relationship quality.

 

Paths to belonging influence interactions with and reactions to close relationship partners

Jennifer Hirsch, Margaret Clark
1Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

How do people achieve a sense of belonging? We suggest there are two major pathways (1) establishing non-contingent, mutually caring close relationships and (2) seeking general approbation from one’s wider social network. These two pathways are orthogonal and both, independently, predict behavioral interactions with romantic partners as well as emotional reactions to the successes and failures of close relationship partners. In Study 1, both members of romantic dyads report their chronic tendency to engage in both pathways and their personal engagement in many relationship behaviors over the previous month. Their reported tendency to engage in each pathway predicts pathway related behaviors. That is, the mutually caring pathway predicts engagement in support provision and receipt behaviors and the presentational pathway predicts engagement in behaviors, like reflection and social comparison, which influence general approbation. In Study 2, the greater the tendency to pursue the mutually caring pathway, the more people report feeling emotionally congruent reactions to the context; e.g. more happiness and less anger when a partner succeeds and more sadness when a partner fails. However, the greater the tendency to pursue the presentational pathway, the more people report feeling emotionally incongruent reactions to the context; e.g. more anger when a partner succeeds and more happiness when a partner fails.

 

Time, money, or kids? Predictors of the division of household labour across life stages

Rebecca Horne, Matthew Johnson, Nancy Galambos, Harvey Krahn
University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Drawing on a life course perspective and data gathered during three developmental periods (the transition to adulthood [age 25; n = 168], young adulthood [age 32; n = 337], and midlife [age 43; n = 309]), this study explored division of household labour patterns among men and women. This study also investigated associations among housework responsibility and variables representing time availability (i.e., work hours), relative resource (i.e., earning a greater share of income in a relationship), and gender constructionist (i.e., marital status and raising children) perspectives at three life course stages. Results indicated women performed more housework than men at all ages. Path models revealed housework responsibility was most strongly predicted by working fewer hours at age 25 and 32, but earning a lesser share of household income at age 43. Although marital status was not associated with housework at any age, raising children was linked to less housework responsibility for men at age 32. Overall, the time availability perspective was the most salient predictor of housework in the transition to adulthood and in young adulthood, the relative resource perspective was most pertinent in midlife, and the gender constructionist perspective was (somewhat) supported in young adulthood.

 

The developmental course of supportive dyadic coping in couples

Rebecca Horne, Matthew Johnson, Adam Galovan
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Drawing from a relational developmental systems (RDS) perspective (Lerner, Agans, DeSouza, & Gasca, 2013) and data from 1,427 continuously partnered young adult and midlife mixed-sex couples over the first 5 years of the German Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (pairfam), this study examined the developmental course of supportive dyadic coping, or the frequency with which one provides practical and emotional support when his or her partner encounters stress. Latent change score (LCS) modeling results revealed that supportive dyadic coping gradually declined for both male and female partners, but there was significant diversity underlying these trajectories. Higher levels of supportive dyadic coping were associated with a more gradual decline in support provided by a partner. Among young adults, a more rapid decline in male partner supportive dyadic coping predicted a slower rate of decline in support from female partners. Finally, we considered possible bidirectional relations between contextual stressors and supportive dyadic coping trajectories. Providing higher levels of support predicted a more gradual decline in self-rated health for male partners. Having more children and experiencing economic pressure predicted steeper declines in supportive dyadic coping over time for both male and female partners.

 

Conflicting interests in close relationships: The contextual benefit of dissimilarity

Kathleen J, Huber, Laura E. VanderDrift
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA

Research on close relationships has often fated dissimilar partners to be unstable and likely to dissolve based on their frequent exposure to conflict of interest situations. However, this begs the question of how some relationships with a high level of conflicting interests do persist, and why. The current study investigates a potential advantage of long-term dissimilar couples. If this type of relationship manages to persist, this would indicate that the dyad has repeatedly resolved many conflict of interest situations. The more positive conflict outcomes a partner experiences, the less cognitive effort they will need to resolve that same conflict in the future; in a sense, they would have a streamlined conflict strategy. We hypothesized that long-term relationships with a high level of conflicting interests will have developed a consistent conflict management style, and will be less likely to breakup in a major conflict situation than long- term relationships with similar interests. Preliminary analyses have indicated that similarity is negatively associated with likelihood to breakup to a major conflict. However, dissimilarity is associated with conflict management style consistency across multiple conflict of interest situations, which in turn is negatively associated with likelihood of breaking up to a major conflict, suggesting a moderating effect of conflict management consistency on likelihood to break up.

 

Quality of romantic and peer relationships, emotion regulation, and depressive symptoms

Joanna Hurley, Laura Brumariu
Adelphi University, Garden City, NY, USA

Previous literature showed that romantic and peer relationships are key factors relevant to development of depression (e.g., La Greca & Harrison, 2005). Further, poor emotion regulation (ER) has been linked to higher levels of depression (e.g., Gross & John, 2003). Little is known, however, about how romantic attachment, peer relationships, and ER operate together. This study evaluated (1) how romantic attachment, the quality of peer relationships, and ER together predict depression, and (2) whether ER explains the relations of romantic attachment or peer relationships with depression. Participants (N = 101, M(SD) = 26.3(3.00) years) completed the ECR-S measuring anxious and avoidant attachment, the IPPA measuring quality of peer relationships, the DERS measuring regulation of positive and negative emotions, and the CES-D through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Regression analyses showed that insecurity in romantic relationships explained 36% variance in depressive symptoms (ECR-S-anxiety, β=.20, p<.05; ECR-S-avoidance, β=.50, p<.01). At step two, the quality of peer relationships explained an additional 15% variance (IPPA-peer subscale, β=-.57, p<.01). At step three, ER abilities explained 10% of variance (DERS-positive, β=.05, p>.05; DERS-negative, β=.48, p<.01). Mediation analyses (Preacher & Hayes, 2008) showed that the abilities to regulate both positive and negative emotions explained the relations between insecure romantic relationships or peer relationships with depressive symptoms. Results suggest that preventive efforts for depression should emphasize the quality of the interpersonal relationship, particularly romantic attachment and quality of peer relationships, and target the enhancement of ER of both positive and negative emotions.

 

Self-other overlap as a predictor of intentions towards working with people with disabilities: An initial empirical evaluation

Michael Ioerger, Laura VanderDrift
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA

Nearly 1 in every 5 Americans have some form of disability, with a little over half of them having a severe disability. Given the large number of people with disability, there is high demand for professionals who are willing to work with people with disability. However, many people are uncomfortable working with people with disability, referring them on to other service providers, actively avoiding interacting with them, or simply failing to appropriately meet their needs. As a result, people with disability report facing many barriers and discrimination when they seek services. Interventions designed to address this issue typically focus on altering the way service providers perceive people with disability through “cultural competence” or “sensitivity” training, or they attempt to change the sense of connection service providers feel with people with disability by changing attitudes or eliciting empathy. However, these interventions all typically highlight people with disability as different or part of a special group, which may influence choices related to engaging with them in the first place. Based on the work by Cialdini and colleagues (1997), this set of studies explores self-other overlap as a key psychological factor associated with being open to working with people with disability and planning on serving them as part of one’s professional work (conceptualized as expressions of helping behavior). It was hypothesized that the more participants reported themselves as overlapping with people with disability, the more they would report positive intentions towards working with them. Evidence supporting this hypothesis and future directions are presented.

 

Couples’ conflict evaluations and relationship quality

Diane Jackson1, Valerie Young1, Tricia Burke2
1Hanover College, Hanover, IN, USA, 2Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA

Although both predict relationship quality, the way in which conflict is perceived and resolved is a stronger indicator of relationship satisfaction than conflict frequency (Orbuch, Veroff, Hassan, & Horrocks, 2002). Constructive conflict is associated with higher relational satisfaction (Roloff, Reznik, Miller, & Johnson, 2015), whereas negative conflict maintenance behaviors is linked to negative relationship outcomes (Goodboy & Myers, 2010). Further, couples who experience greater differences in their assessments of conflict may report lower relational quality (Campbell, Simpson, Boldry, & Kashy, 2005). Accordingly, this study examined individuals’ evaluations of frequent conflict topics in their relationships, discrepancies in their conflict evaluations, and relationship quality.

Participants (N = 143) reported and rated their perception of the top three most prevalent conflict topics in their relationship, from -3 (conflict is very destructive for our relationship) to 3 (constructive) and relationship quality (satisfaction, commitment, investment; Rusbult et al., 1998). Data were analyzed using Actor Partner Interdependence Models. Controlling for relationship length, actor reports of conflict perceptions was positively associated with their own relationship quality (b = 0.28, SE = 0.05, t(121) = 5.41, p < .001) and marginally positively associated with partners’ relationship quality (b = 0.10, SE = .05, t(121) = 1.89, p = .06). Couple differences in conflict perception were not significantly associated with relationship quality for actors or partners. The results suggest that an individual’s assessment of relational conflict may serve as a relationship-enhancing attribution, but conflict evaluation discrepancy was not associated with relationship quality.

 

Touch reduces romantic jealousy in the anxiously attached

Brittany Jakubiak, Kaylyn Kim, Brooke Feeney
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Feelings of jealousy are usually detrimental to relationships, often resulting in negative outcomes ranging from conflict to violence and relationship dissolution. Anxiously attached individuals are especially prone to jealousy in their relationships, and are therefore especially likely to experience negative outcomes of jealousy. In this research, we examined the effectiveness of both touch and a traditional security prime as a potential means of reducing feelings of jealousy for individuals who are high in anxious attachment. Individuals in romantic relationships (N = 75) were induced to feel jealous, during which time they were randomly assigned to receive affectionate touch from their partners, a traditional non-touch security prime, or no intervention (control). Results revealed that anxious attachment was associated with high levels of jealousy, and touch was an especially effective buffer against jealous feelings and to protect positive feelings toward the partner for anxiously attached individuals. The traditional security prime did not buffer jealous feelings, but it did protect against decreases in positive feelings toward the partner. These results suggest that touch may serve a unique and important role during perceived relationship threats, especially for individuals who are hypersensitive to relationship threats.

 

The role of parent gender and gender attitudes on infant gendering

Diana Jenkins, Kristin Mickelson
Arizona State University, Glendale, AZ, USA

The formation of our gender attitudes and the influences that affect our gender identification have been questioned by researchers. The present study pulled data from a previously collected study to see how parents, based on their sex and gender attitudes, perceive their newborn boys and girls. The link between parent sex and baby sex was also observed, and in combination with parental gender attitudes (i.e., egalitarian or traditional). In the sample, 109 couples were asked about their pregnancy, followed by their experiences 1 month, 4 months, and 9 months postpartum. Preliminary results revealed that parents with baby boys were more upset if he was interested in cross-gendered things, compared to parents with baby girls if she was interested in cross-gendered things. Furthermore, two-thirds of the parents revealed that their baby has been mistaken for the opposite gender, most of whom are girls mistaken for boys. We can see the differences in parental gender attitudes as well as societal idealized gender norms beginning at a young age.

 

Couple types on thoughts about marriage and divorce and associations with overall and daily relationship quality

Mi Kyoung Jin
Sookmyung women’s University, Seoul, Korea, USA

Our goal was to examine how unique couple types predicted both overall and daily relationship quality for individuals and their partners in romantic relationships. Couple types were based on individuals’ thoughts about both marriage and divorce. Our sample included individuals and their partners in various types of romantic relationships (e.g., married, dating, cohabiting; N = 132). We have 2 IVs: Thoughts on Marriage Scale, which is a 14-item measure by Wallin (1954) and Thoughts on Divorce Scale, which is a 12-item measure by Kinnaird and Gerrard (2016). We have 6 DVs, all about relationship quality: Commitment, satisfaction, closeness, maintenance, ambivalence, and conflict, assessed both overall and daily (once a day for 7 days). We included 4 control variables: Gender, age, education, and relationship length.

First, we used latent class analysis (LCA) based on the responses from the survey on both thoughts on marriage and divorce to create couple types. The values of AIC, BIC, log-likelihood, and LMR-test (adjusted LMR value=529.916, p<0.05) showed that the appropriate number of latent classes was two. The types of couples were classified based on each latent class – class 1-class1, class1-class2 (=class2-class1), and class2-class2. Next, we used a hierarchical multiple regression analysis to test how the couple types (IVs) predicted differences in the DVs (i.e., overall/daily relationship quality, or Overall/Daily Ambivalence, Overall/Daily Closeness, Overall/Daily Satisfaction, Overall/Daily Commitment). Several patterns emerged.

Collectively, these results mean that the concordance or discordance between the thought on marriage/divorce of couples influences relationship quality.

 

What’s better for the relationship: Rejecting a partner’s sexual advances kindly or having sex reluctantly?

James Kim1, Amy Muise2, Emily Impett3
1University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, 2York University, Toronto, Canada, 3University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada

Having a satisfying sexual relationship is essential for the overall quality of romantic relationships (Impett, Muise, & Peragine, 2014), yet sustaining satisfaction can be difficult, especially since partners frequently disagree about when and how often to engage in sex (Davies, Katz, & Jackson, 1999). During situations in which one partner displays greater desire in engaging in sex than the other, what behaviors might be optimal for sustaining the quality of the relationship?

While sexual frequency among couples is robustly linked with greater relationship satisfaction (e.g., Muise, Schimmack, & Impett, 2016), research shows engaging in sex to avoid negative outcomes (such as conflict or hurting a partner’s feelings) is associated with poorer relationship outcomes, including decreased relationship and sexual satisfaction (Impett, Peplau, & Gable, 2005). Given that pursuing sex for approach goals (such as to increase intimacy and closeness between partners) is not always possible, it seems likely that there are ways that people can reject or decline their partner’s sexual advances in ways that are responsive to their partner’s needs to not engage in sex.

In the current research using an experimental study and a daily experience study of romantic couples, we provide evidence that people are more satisfied when their partner declines their sexual advances in a reassuring manner than when their partner agrees to engage in sex but does so in pursuit of avoidance goals. This research has important and far-reaching implications for helping couples navigate a common yet challenging area of relationship conflict with greater success.

 

The role of parents during the transition to college: The influence of attachment style on mental health outcomes

Jennifer Tomlinson, Sarah Kistner
Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, USA

Do parents help or hurt us during the transition to college? This study examines 88 students during two points of their first semester. I hypothesized that attachment anxiety would predict anxiety symptoms and attachment avoidance would predict depression. Alcohol consumption, sexual activity, and parental safe haven support were examined as potential mechanisms. Attachment anxiety was associated with Time Two symptoms of anxiety and depression, and attachment avoidance was associated with Time Two depression, indicating that attachment to parents has lasting mental health implications. Safe haven support partially mediated the relationship between attachment anxiety and anxiety symptoms, such that safe haven support explained some variance in the association. This study reveals the complicated nature of parental involvement during college transitions.

 

Love, distance and a future together – how do long-distance couples manage the fragile balance of intimacy and distance

Markus Klingel
Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, Bremen, Germany

Intimacy and distance have been contradictions in the past. However, increasing flexibility demands, as “despatialization” of work, change the way of relating in romantic relationships. Nowadays, long-distance relationships (LDRs) are “biographical solutions” to reconcile external occupational demands with emotional needs. Distance becomes a context of intimate relating. LDRs exemplify how social change influences the complex interplay of individuals with their closest other. LDRs are emotionally costly “individualized relationships”: they might lack growth, synchronization of lives and realistic future perspectives. Dyadic precarity follows unrealistic control beliefs to bridge distance and intimacy.

How do LDR couples flexibly manage this relational fragility? How do they synchronize and link their life plans and courses to move together? In-depth interviews with 10 couples (age 26-38; distance 3-8 hours, relationship duration 1-8 year years; flexible occupation) focussed on relationship organization, experience and evaluation and on future plans, compromises and decision-making. Psychometrical measures assessed dyadic and personal characteristics (control; self-regulation; attachment; relationship satisfaction; plans).

Results show beneficial short-term adaptation as cognitive, emotional flexibilization and effective management of distant relationship life. However, this is accompanied by emotional strain, insecurities about a future together and dyadic stagnation. Thus, flexibility has limited functionality to reconcile career pursuits and emotional relating. However, flexibility is ‘unlimited’, as many couples show patterns of de- and relocalisation and future plans include commuting. These plans are uncertain and partly unrealistic. LDRs thus exemplify the contemporary, late/postmodern dilemma between autonomy and intimacy with long-term implications for individual well-being, dyadic stability and reproduction of society.

 

The old couple: Successful aging and the limits of autonomy and agency

Markus Klingel
Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, Bremen, Germany

Increasing life expectancy transformed late life to a longer, crucial part of life. It is divided into Third Age: ‘good’ years of high functioning and satisfaction; and Fourth Age: the dark side of frailty and losses. Due to less obligations Third Age often also means dyadic late-life happiness. This is, however, fragile and temporary as at the transition to Fourth Age aging and losses threaten couples’ well-being, homeostasis and functionality. Unpredictable changes require adaptation and coping.

This 5-year mixed-methods longitudinal study includes three measurements: an intensive questionnaire measurement followed by two waves of in-depth interviews with questionnaires two and five years later. The final sample consisted of 10 couples (78-86 years old, 50-65 years married). The research goal was to understand subjective and objective changes of individuals and couples at the transition from Third to Fourth Age. How do couples experience and cope with changes, new limitations and increasing consciousness of finiteness? Which meanings, fears and anticipations are emerging? How do couples discuss, negotiate and decide on aging and autonomy?

Results show that couples internalize ideals of autonomy and successful aging and benefit through experienced self-efficacy and health benefits. However, this changes from first to second interview. Experienced functional and health issues lead from self-confidence, unrealistic optimism and denial of aging to modesty, rumination and awareness of temporal limitations of late life. Between-couple heterogeneity in coping and acceptance was also more pronounced, ranging from rational preparation to despair. Successful aging, control and agency are painfully limited when Fourth Age approaches.

 

Self-determination and differentiation: The interplay between autonomy and relatedness need fulfillment

Esther Kluwer1, Johan Karremans2, Larissa Riedijk1, Raymond Knee3
1Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, 3University of Houston, Houston, USA

This research investigates the interplay between relatedness and autonomy need fulfillment, as derived from Self-determination theory, and differentiation, a concept derived from family systems theory that refers to the ability to maintain a sense of self while being in an intense emotional relationship. More differentiated people can experience autonomy in their relationships without the fear of abandonment and achieve intimacy without the fear of being smothered (Bowen, 1978; Kerr & Bowen, 1988). They are able to support their partner’s best interest without feeling a loss of self-direction in the process (Schnarch, 1997; Skowron, 2000) and because they do not lose their sense of self-direction, more differentiated people can remain closely connected to others who are less than ideal or who hold different opinions.

In two large correlational studies, we found support for the hypothesis that relatedness and autonomy interact to affect the level of differentiation. As expected, relatedness was associated with more differentiation when autonomy was high rather than low. In addition, both studies supported our hypothesis that this interaction effect of relatedness and autonomy on differentiation further affected levels of accommodation, partner acceptance and sexual satisfaction (a moderated mediation). That is, relatedness was associated with more accommodation, partner acceptance, and sexual satisfaction through increased differentiation, but only in combination with high rather than low autonomy. This research shows that relatedness interacts with levels of autonomy to affect relationship processes, stressing the importance of maintaining a sense of self while being in a relationship.

 

To look hot or not? Romantic commitment modulates women’s attractiveness-regulation with romantic alternatives

Kori Krueger, Amanda Forest, Edward Orehek
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Single people can garner romantic interest from others by enhancing their physical appearance. Might people in romantic relationships also regulate their attractiveness? One particularly important context in which they might do so is in interactions with potential alternative partners. Inspired by work on derogation of alternatives, we reasoned that relationship commitment should govern attractiveness-regulation, and that the availability of the alternative should matter. Available (i.e., single) alternatives represent better opportunities for new relationships but also pose a greater threat to one’s ongoing relationship than unavailable (i.e., romantically-committed) alternatives. Two studies tested the hypotheses that women low in commitment would regulate their attractiveness by presenting themselves more attractively when interacting with an available versus unavailable alternative (H1) and women high in commitment would regulate their attractiveness by presenting themselves less attractively when interacting with an available versus unavailable alternative (H2). In each study, we measured commitment, manipulated alternative availability, and examined how attractively participants presented themselves. Results supported H1, but not H2: Less committed women presented themselves more attractively in a photo for the alternative (Study 1) and chose a more attractive outfit (Study 2) when they anticipated or imagined interacting with an available versus unavailable alternative. Highly committed women did not regulate their attractiveness as a function of alternative availability. Thus, less committed women may capitalize on opportunities that seem promising for attracting new potential partners by enhancing their attractiveness. In contrast, highly committed women’s failure to do so may contribute to the maintenance of their ongoing dyadic relationship.

 

The role of family-of-origin variables on risk taking behaviors of Turkish emerging adults

Mustafa Alperen Kursuncu, Zeynep Hatipoglu Sumer
Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey

The current study was the first attempt to investigate the role of family-of-origin variables (i.e. personal authority, intergenerational intimacy and triangulation) in predicting risk involvement of Turkish emerging adults after controlling for gender, age, GPA, number of siblings, father and mother educational levels. Five hundred and thirty five college students between the ages of 18-26 from two state universities in Ankara participated in this study. Turkish versions of the Personal Authority in Family System (PAFSQ-VC) which was adapted to Turkish by the authors and the Modified Risk Involvement and Perception Scale (M-RIPS) along with demographic information form were used to collect data. Two separate hierarchical regression analyses were conducted for low and high risk behaviors. Results revealed that demographic variables of the study such as gender, age and academic achievement were more significantly explain the risk-involvement of Turkish emerging adults than family-of-origin variables. Among the family-of-origin variables, only father intimacy and personal authority predicted the risk taking behaviors of Turkish emerging adults with very low variances. Furthermore, the results indicated that younger male students who had high level of personal authority, low level of father intimacy and low level of academic achievement were more likely engage in low risk taking behaviors. Results also indicated that older males with high level of personal authority and whose fathers graduated from secondary and/or high school were more likely engage in high risk taking behaviors. Results were discussed in relation to Turkish culture’s individualistic and collectivistic characteristics.

 

Courtship then and now

Melissa LaBuda
Penn State University, Dunmore, PA, USA

From the 1770’s to the early 1900’s courtship was designed as a process where a couple spent more time together and in time it may lead to marriage.  Courtship was incorporated into daily activities including eating cake, singing around a piano, going for long walks, and going to balls. These activities allowed the couple to get to know one another. As the couple shared more of their life story they began sharing their worldviews and found commonalities. Once the commonalities are established the couple may move towards marriage. It should be noted that during this time parents had little control over whom their children chose and love was the main reason for getting married.

By the time the Industrial Revolution occurred and people moved to the city, courtship activities were not possible in the cramped apartments. Therefore, there was a shift in the behaviors and who had control over courtship rituals. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, women controlled the courtship process.  Since activities had to be paid for in order to go out, the man began to control the courtship process and courtship was transformed into dating. Dating is not necessarily going to lead to marriage. Dating is considered practice. Going steady just meant that the couple was exclusively dating.

Computer dating was invented by John Tarr in the 1960’s and courtship and dating was transformed. This paper will be an examination of courtship behaviors from the 1700’s to the present.

 

An examination of negative emotion suppression and positive emotion amplification in families of college-aged students

Bonnie M. Le1, Lisa C. Day1, Emily A. Impett2
1University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, 2University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada

Parenting college-aged students who live at home can be both rewarding and challenging in the emotional arena. In the current study, we examined whether parental suppression of negative emotions and the amplification of positive emotions contribute to or detract from the well-being of parents and their children. One hundred and seventy-five college students and both parents participated in a cross-sectional study. Results indicated that for mothers, there were no associations between either emotion regulation strategy with well-being and relationship quality as reported by both mothers and their children, nor were there associations with parental responsiveness. In contrast, for fathers, the use of both emotion regulation strategies predicted some boosts in their well-being, with fathers reporting more positive emotions and greater relationship quality when engaging in both emotion regulation strategies, and feeling more responsive to their children’s needs when amplifying positive emotions. In addition, when fathers suppressed negative emotions, children reported experiencing increased emotional well-being. Finally, while paternal, but not maternal, emotion regulation influenced children’s well-being, children were inaccurate in detecting their parents’ chronic negative emotion suppression and positive emotion amplification. Results suggest that in this unique sample of college-aged students living at home with their parents, mother’s emotion regulation did not seem to impact mothers or children, whereas fathers’ emotion regulation was linked with benefits for both fathers and children.

 

Associations between couple relationship quality and coparenting during the transition to parenthood: Micro and macro perspectives

Yunying Le1, Brandon McDaniel2, Chelom Leavitt1, Steffany Fredman1, Mark Feinberg1
1The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA, 2Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

The romantic relationship and coparenting coordination dimensions of couple relationships are theorized to influence each other in a reciprocal manner. Research has demonstrated cross-sectional and prospective associations between the two.  However, the reciprocity between romantic relationship quality and coparenting over time has not been directly modeled.  Moreover, little is known about the day-to-day associations between the two. The current study examines the associations between relationship quality and coparenting across the transition to parenthood in both a short-term (daily) and long-term (months/years) framework within a dyadic context. Participants were cohabiting heterosexual couples expecting their first child together and participating in one of two randomized controlled trials evaluating a couple-based transition to parenthood program. In Study 1, 138 couples were assessed at 9 months postpartum for 8 consecutive days.  In Study 2, 164 couples were assessed prenatally and at 6 and 36 months postpartum.  Actor partner interdependence modeling was used to examine: (a) the day-to-day between- and within-person associations between the relationship quality and coparenting (Study 1); (b) the longitudinal reciprocal associations between the two across the first three years of parenthood (Study 2); and (c) gender differences in those associations. Findings demonstrate associations between relationship quality and coparenting both on a daily basis and longitudinally. Specifically, for both men and women, everyday within-person fluctuations in coparenting and relationship quality are positively associated. Longitudinally, prenatal relationship quality sets the stage for coparenting after birth for both men and women, which in turn predicts subsequent perceptions of romantic relationship quality for women only.

 

From self-reflection to social-reflection: Processes distinguishing adaptive vs. maladaptive social support

David Lee1, Julia Briskin2, Taylor Shrapnell3, Ozlem Ayduk4, Ethan Kross3, Oscar Ybarra3
1Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA, 2Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA, 3University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, 4University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA

Although much research indicates that social support facilitates coping, other work shows that receiving support can undermine coping. We attempt to reconcile these divergent findings by examining the psychological processes that distinguish adaptive versus maladaptive social support. Drawing from research on self-reflection, we hypothesized that effective support provision should depend on whether a support-provider leads a support-recipient to reconstrue (i.e., talk about their experience from broader perspectives) rather than recount (i.e., talk about what happened and what they felt) their painful experiences. Study 1 examined the degree to which support-providers report cueing support-recipients to recount or reconstrue their negative experiences when providing support in their daily lives. Over 76% of participants reported providing one of these two types of support when close others ask for support, highlighting the normative role that these processes play in real-life social support transactions. Study 2 examined the causal implications of these social support processes. Participants who were randomly assigned to talk to a confederate who cued them to reconstrue an ongoing negative experience felt better and experienced more closure about their recalled experience after their conversation than participants who were prompted to recount their experience. These findings integrate research on self-reflection and social support, highlighting common psychological processes that allow people to adaptively reflect on painful emotional experiences alone and with others.

 

A prospective study of Big Five personality traits and perceived control among older couples

Ji Hyun Lee, William J. Chopik
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

Perceived control is an essential psychological resource that has implications for health and well-being among older adults. Previous research has shown evidence for a dyadic association between individual and partner personality traits and their health outcomes. However, less known about the extent to which personality traits can influence one’s perceived control within close relationships. The current study applied actor-partner interdependence models to investigate how Big Five personality traits moderated changes in broad and domain-specific perceived control in older couples over an eight-year period.

Longitudinal dyadic data from 4,460 married and cohabitating couples (N=8,920 individuals; age at baseline M=66.7, SD=9.74) from the Health and Retirement Study were used. Big Five personality traits were measured at baseline. Measures of perceived control (mastery and constraints) and domain-specific control (health, social, financial) were assessed three times over an eight-year period. Actor’s age, gender, education was included as controls.

Actor extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness most reliably predicted broad and domain-specific perceived control. Partner extraversion and neuroticism had reliable association with domain-specific perceived control, while partner conscientiousness and openness contributed to the sense of mastery. The majority of these relationships were stable over the eight-year study window.

These findings suggest that individual’s and their partner’s personality traits uniquely contribute to different aspects of perceived control for older couples. We highlight the benefits of modeling how interpersonal processes affect intrapersonal characteristics as well as the underlying mechanisms that link the two.

 

Dress for success: How cosplay affect relates to commitment in romantic relationships

Connor Leshner, Sarah Amira De La Garza
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

At comic conventions, there tends to be two groups of people: those who cosplay and those who don’t. Cosplay is the act of dressing as an individual’s favorite character from a show or movie, and traditionally from Japanese anime and manga. The present study examines how these two groups of people, “cosplayers” and “attendees”, differ when it comes to romantic relationships. The main goal of this study is to find support for the hypothesis that cosplayers have a lower score for relationship satisfaction, commitment, and length than convention attendees, and that convention attendees have a higher score than a control outside the convention realm (Relationship score: Attendees>Control>Cosplayers). As well, a secondary hypothesis is that cosplayers display lower interest of sexual activity involving playing characters than both the control group and convention and attendees (Sexual activity in character: Attendees>Control>Cosplayers). Participants were recruited through convention email chains as well as Amazon’s MTurk. As there is a wide age-range within the convention population, the pilot study, as well as any future study, will be made of populations averaged between eighteen and forty. Current data from pilot studies suggests that both hypotheses have merit, and that there may exist an interaction effect of comic conventions and cosplay on both hypotheses. However, as the initial population was drawn from an unofficial group loosely affiliated with Phoenix Comicon, a larger population is needed before any conclusions can be formally drawn. Future instances of data collection are currently in-progress.

 

Daily implementations of pro-partner behaviors: Preliminary evidence from experience-sampling study

Sisi Li, Chin Ming Hui
Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Individuals are committed to implement pro-partner behaviors in their everyday life. However, are people more or less likely to engage in pro-partner behaviors, after engaging in these behaviors earlier on a day? This experience-sampling study aims to address this question. In this study, couples were asked to complete 6 surveys for 7 days, and, participants reported on each survey whether they had done anything beneficial to the partner in the past one or two hours. Results showed that people are more likely to engage in pro-partner behaviors, if they have just engaged in these behaviors earlier on the day. Further analyses suggested this pattern could be strengthened by their partner’s relationship-specific communal strength. Comparisons were made between individuals between high and low communal strengths.

 

Presence of an attachment figure is associated with greater sensitivity to physical pain following mild social exclusion

Miranda DiLorenzo, Giorgina Chum, Lauren Weidmark, Geoff MacDonald
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Social exclusion has been shown to influence sensitivity to physical pain. Attachment theory suggests that a primary response to distressing situations like rejection should be seeking out the company of a close other, but this option is not available under the typical constraints of a laboratory study. Guided by attachment theory, we hypothesized that the presence of an attachment figure (versus a stranger) following an experience of mild rejection would permit acknowledgement of distress and thus stronger reports of physical pain. Healthy participants were tested for baseline pain sensitivity then were randomly assigned to an inclusion or exclusion experience as part of a staged online chat. Participants were then randomly assigned to share the company of an attachment figure they had brought with them to the lab or a stranger. Following this, pain sensitivity was measured a second time. As predicted, excluded participants who were given access to an attachment figure evidenced heightened pain sensitivity (lower pain tolerance and threshold) whereas those who were exposed to a stranger evidenced some degree of decrease in pain sensitivity (higher pain tolerance, no change in pain threshold). This study highlights the value of applying theory regarding normative attachment processes to a social exclusion literature that is too often centered around researcher convenience rather than external validity. It also highlights how heightened experiences of negative emotion such as pain can reflect healthy, rather than unhealthy, emotional processing.

 

Sign here—an exploration of cultural contracts in identity negotiation within the evangelical LGBT community  

Robert Matheny, Jamie Cobb
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA

Evangelical Christians are traditionally resolute in their stance against same-sex romance.  Despite this, members of the gay community are increasingly attending Evangelical churches regardless of the seeming contradiction between sexual identity and conservative religious affiliation.  In the mid eighteenth-century Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “every man having been born free and master of himself, no one else may under any pretext whatever subject him without his consent.”  Rousseau’s comment was made in the context of a fierce debate regarding the nature of freedom, personal agency, and obligation to the social order.  Building from this idea as well as theories of identity negotiation, Cultural Contract Theory suggests that every social interaction involves an overlap of individual identities and, thus, involves a process of identity negotiation at varying degrees of cooperation.  This process results in a social “contract” that specifies the rules and conditions for mutual identity management.  The purpose of this case study is to examine how individuals that identify as both LGBTQ and Evangelical Christian negotiate these seemingly conflicting identities through in-depth interviews and source documents from Blue Ocean Faith Evangelical churches using Cultural Contracts Theory.

 

Implicit theories of relationships and the expansion of the self: Implications for relationship functioning

Brent A. Mattingly1, Kevin P. McIntyre2, C. Raymond Knee3
1Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA, USA, 2Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, USA, 3University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA

Individuals hold implicit beliefs about the nature of romantic relationships (Knee, 1998). Specifically, individuals with strong growth beliefs believe that relationship challenges can be overcome and that romantic relationships can be cultivated over time (Knee et al., 2003). Consequently, strong growth beliefs predict relationship improvement and maintenance behaviors (Knee et al., 2003).

One potential route in which growth-oriented individuals may seek to improve their relationships is through engaging in self-expanding experiences with romantic partners (Aron et al., 2013). Self-expansion is the process by which individuals’ self-concepts are cognitively restructured by acquiring new or augmenting existing resources, identities, perspectives, and capabilities (Aron et al., 2013).

Therefore, across two cross-sectional studies, we predicted that growth beliefs would result in relationship improvement, and this association would be mediated by self-expansion.

In Study 1, 298 romantically involved individuals completed measures of growth beliefs (Knee et al., 2003), self-expansion (Lewandowski & Aron, 2002), and relationship quality (Rusbult et al., 1998). As predicted, growth beliefs predicted relationship quality (p < .001), and self-expansion mediated this association (p < .001).

In Study 2, 284 romantically involved individuals completed the same measures as Study 1, plus measures of accommodation (Rusbult et al., 1991) and dissolution consideration (VanderDrift et al., 2009). As predicted, growth beliefs predicted relationship quality, accommodation, and dissolution consideration (ps ≤ .001), and self-expansion significantly mediated these associations (ps < .001).

These results are the first to link implicit theories of relationships to relationship-induced self-concept change, and as such integrate two important perspectives on relationship functioning.

 

Let’s try something new: Using response surface analysis to understand the effects of sexual accuracy and similarity

Jessica Maxwell, Megan Rossi, Maxwell Barranti, Geoff MacDonald
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Are individuals more relationally satisfied if their romantic partner understands which sexual behaviors they most enjoy? Or are individuals more satisfied if their partner shares–or is assumed to share–their enjoyment of particular behaviors?  Past research is mixed as to whether partners do accurately understand each other’s sexual interests, and whether greater accuracy, or greater similarity is associated with positive relationship outcomes (e.g., de Jong & Reis, 2014; MacNeil & Byers, 2009). Our research (N = 103 undergraduate couples) uses new advances in statistical methodology, the Truth and Bias model and polynomial regressions with Response Surface Analysis (RSA), to shed light on these mixed findings. Our results suggest that individuals do tend to be accurate in detecting their partner’s enjoyment level across a variety of sexual behaviors, and use their own enjoyment levels as an anchor for their judgments. Counter to our predictions, more positive relational outcomes were associated with having one’s interests misperceived and having different sexual interests from one’s partner, particularly for potentially more risky behaviors (e.g., sexting). We also found that assuming your partner shared your sexual likes, as opposed to dislikes, predicted higher relationship quality. Overall, this research illustrates the nuanced findings the Truth and Bias model and RSA provide, thereby adding value when examining accuracy in the sexual domain, and accuracy in relationships more broadly. Our research complements the conference’s emphasis on the dyadic nature of relationships, and showcases ways in which the field can continually benefit from recent statistical and methodological advances.

 

Cultivating a collaborative culture in doctoral student environments: An autoethnographic approach

Kathleen McCallops, Ginnie Sawyer Morris
University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA

For current doctoral students, the successful completion of coursework and dissertation will not suffice. They are expected to publish, present at conferences, obtain funding, and teach courses. Together, these academic expectations contribute to a competitive and isolating environment. Amidst these conditions, there is an increased focus on collaboration and interdisciplinarity. The authors found this type of collaborative culture to be in opposition to the environment previously mentioned. Further, the authors found no framework within their doctoral program for pursuing collaborative peer relationships. Left unaddressed, these conflicting conditions have the potential to leave the next generation of graduate students guessing as to how to collaborate within or across disciplines.
The aim of this proposal is to provide a rich narrative description of the evolution, maintenance, and growth of the authors’ collaborative peer relationship in an interdisciplinary social sciences department. Using an autoethnographic approach, the authors collected data from multiple sources including admissions and course essays, meeting notes, reflective interview transcripts, and electronic communications. These data were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Preliminary findings illustrated three themes of their collaborative peer relationship: 1) a trusting relationship, 2) comparable character traits, and 3) contrasting strengths. These findings contribute to the knowledge-base on collaborative peer relationships in academia.
The expectations for doctoral students have increased, yet the isolating and competitive conditions have remained the same. It is the authors’ hope that this narrative description will contribute to the development of a framework for developing collaborative peer relationships in doctoral student environments.

 

Married undergraduate students’ use of dyadic coping: Associations between anticipated stigma and symptoms of distress

Shelby Messerschmitt, Ashley Randall
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

The anticipation of stigma is considered a source of stress, which has been shown to have harmful effects on one’s psychological well-being. Being a married undergraduate (UG) student is uncommon considering the average age people marry in the U.S. (29 for males, 27 for females). Given that the “traditional” UG student is unmarried, being a married UG student may be associated with anticipated stigma stress; as such, it is important to identify ways in which romantic partners can help one another cope with this unique stressor. Dyadic coping (DC) is defined as all efforts of one or both partners to handle stress in the context of their relationship. Partners can either engage in positive (e.g., providing empathy) or negative DC. Using cross-sectional data collected from 151 married UG college students, we examine whether perceptions of partner’s positive and negative DC moderated the association between anticipated stigma stress and symptoms of anxiety. Results suggested that there was a significant main effect of anticipated stigma stress on symptoms of anxiety. There was a significant interaction, where delegated DC significantly moderated the relationship between anticipated stigma stress and symptoms of anxiety. When participants reported high levels of anticipated stigma stress, those who reported higher partner’s use of delegated DC also reported lower symptoms of anxiety as compared to those who reported low partner’s use of delegated DC. These findings have implications for future research, which can examine novel applications of DC and specific stressors, such as anticipated stigma stress.

 

You haven’t been on my mind lately: Partner responsiveness mediates the link between attachment insecurities and dyadic fantasies

Moran Mizrahi1, Yaniv Kanat-Maymon2, Gurit Birnbaum2
1University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA, 2Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Herzliya, Israel

Sexual desire normally reaches a peak at early relationship stages and diminishes gradually over time, when the novelty and mystery that fuel it fade away. A decrease in dyadic sexual fantasies and an increase of extradyadic sexual fantasies are typical manifestations of this process. Previous research has indicated that excluding romantic partners from sexual fantasies relates to relationship dissatisfaction, such that unsatisfied intimates fantasize more frequently about extradyadic sex than do satisfied partners. Yet, these findings are hard to interpret due to the use of retrospective cross-sectional designs. Furthermore, it is still unclear which relationship processes motivate people to fantasize less about their current partners.

The present diary study adopted an attachment-theoretical perspective to examine (a) the associations between attachment insecurities and the frequency of dyadic and extradyadic sexual fantasies, and (b) the role of perceived partner responsiveness in mediating these associations. One hundred couples reported on their perceptions of partner responsiveness and frequency of dyadic and extradyadic sexual fantasies for 42 days. We found that daily anxiety and avoidance were associated with lower frequency of fantasizing about one’s partner in both genders. Furthermore, highly avoidant men were particularly likely to report extradyadic fantasies. Attachment insecurity was associated with perceiving one’s partner as less responsive, which in turn, predicted lower frequency of dyadic fantasies. These findings demonstrate the role of perceived partner responsiveness in sustaining desire, suggesting that the tendency of insecure people to perceive their partners as less responsive decreases sexual desire and further hampers emotional bonding.

 

Consensual nonmonogamy: Assessing negative attitudes

Mark Moss, Edinboro University of PA, Edinboro, PA, USA

Consensual nonmonogamy (CNM) describes intimate romantic relationships that are not sexually and/or emotionally exclusive in nature. mTurk participants located in the United States (n = 889) completed a survey containing one of fifteen vignettes, each about a hypothetical gay male, straight, or lesbian female couple. The 5 x 3 between-subjects factorial design examined the effect of relationship type (monogamous, polyamorous, swinging, open, cheating) and the effect of sexual orientation (heterosexual vs. gay male vs. lesbian) on attitude rating subscales (relationship satisfaction, cognitive ability, and morality). Measures of participant’s self-construal (independent vs. communal) were also be obtained. Several recent studies have revealed generally negative attributions towards individuals engaging in consensual nonmonogamy, both on measures of perceived relationship satisfaction and arbitrary cognitive abilities. The present study expands on the current understanding of these negative assessments as well as the socially normative ideologies that fuel prejudice and discriminatory behavior against CNM individuals. Furthermore, the current study yielded more implicit, finely detailed data than previous work and further explored the effect of sexual identity on the assessment of consensually nonmonogamous relationship structures. Finally, this study considered the relationship between collectivism/individualism and willingness to deem consensually nonmonogamous behavior as acceptable.

 

Seeing red: Anger expression mediates the relationship between attachment and chronic loneliness

Katie O’Connell1, Michael Golding2, Enrico DiTommaso2
1University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, 2University of New Brunswick- Saint John, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Although anger is often perceived as exerting a deleterious effect on the quality of one’s close relationships, research has found that its impact is largely contingent on how it is expressed (Kocur & Deffenbacher, 2014). Adaptive expressions of anger (i.e. appropriately signaling one’s discontent) can be constructive and actually improve communication, whereas more maladaptive or punitive expressions (e.g., aggression, avoidance) lead to greater dysfunction or even breakdown of communication between individuals (Nisenbaum & Lopez, 2015). Maladaptive anger expression may contribute to problems in forming and maintaining fulfilling relationships; which in turn, may lead to loneliness. Loneliness is a distressing psychological experience stemming from perceived deficiencies in the quality or quantity of one’s social and intimate relationships (Heinrich & Gullone, 2006; Peplau & Perlman, 1982). The current study explored how different styles of anger expression act as possible mechanisms linking attachment security to the development and persistence of chronic loneliness (i.e., lasting two or more years; Young, 1982) across various relationships. Results from a community sample (N = 276; age range: 18-71 years) revealed two forms of anger expression (rumination and assertion) acted as significant partial mediators. Rumination partially mediated the relationship between attachment avoidance and chronic loneliness for both males and females, whereas assertion partially mediated the relationship between attachment anxiety and chronic loneliness for females only. The implications of these findings and how they may inform clinical interventions with individuals experiencing chronic loneliness will be discussed.

 

Who can’t get no satisfaction? Causality orientations predict experiences of sexual interactions

Camilla S. Øverup1, Angelo M. DiBello2, C. Veronica Smith3
1Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ, USA, 2Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, 3University of Mississippi, University, MS, USA

Self-determination theory suggests that motivation orientations are associated with different experiences of sexual interactions, both for self and the partner’s experiences. Autonomous motivation may be associated with more positive sexual experiences, while controlled and impersonal motivation may be related to more negative sexual experiences. Using a 21-day event-contingent diary (N=157), motivation orientations were examined as predictors of own sexual experiences and perceptions of partner’s sexual experiences. Results found that autonomous orientation was associated with overall more positive sexual experiences, including feeling more desired, respected, aroused, and capable, and greater sexual satisfaction. Moreover, autonomously oriented individuals perceived that their partner felt greater desire, arousal, respect, and competence. Controlled motivation predicted feeling more pressure, anxiety, and detachment during sexual interactions, and perceptions that the partner experienced more of these negative feelings also. Moreover, controlled orientation interacted with perceptions of the partner’s experience, such that participants high in controlled orientation had less fulfilling sexual interactions when they perceived their partner experienced less sexual satisfaction, respect, and arousal. Controlled individuals also reported feeling more pressure and anxiety when they perceived greater such feelings in the partner. For those with higher levels of impersonal orientation, perceiving lower feelings of respect and detachment in the partner was associated with experiencing greater levels of those feelings, and with feeling lower levels of anxiety when perceiving higher levels of anxiety in the partner. Our findings suggest that autonomous orientation is associated with more positive sexual experiences, while controlled and impersonal orientation is more complexly associated with sexual experiences.

 

We are both working! What will be the destiny of our relationship?

Burcu Özgülük1, Zeynep Hatipoglu Sümer2
1MEF University, Istanbul, Turkey, 2Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

There is a noteworthy increase in the number of dual- career couples in Turkey. In the last two decades, due to the striking changes in the world of work and nature of family roles attributed to men as breadwinner and to women as caregiver are being transformed. This transformation in roles leads to changes in familial dynamics as well as relational dimensions like satisfaction with and commitment to the relationship. Therefore, the current study aimed to test a model investigating the relationships among relational satisfaction, quality of alternatives, investment size, commitment, and satisfaction with dual career lifestyle in Turkish dual- career married individuals.

The participants comprised of 264 dual- career married individuals. 178 (67.4%) of them were females and 82 (31.1%) of them were males. They were between the ages of 19 and 60 years (M= 33,16, SD= 6,72).  Turkish versions of the Investment Model Scale (Rusbult, Martz & Agnew, 1998) and Satisfaction with Dual- Career Lifestyle Scale (Perrone & Worthington, 2001) were used to collect data.

Structural equation modelling (SEM) was utilized to test the proposed model. Results revealed that satisfaction with dual- career lifestyle was positively related to satisfaction and investment size. Moreover, it was found that satisfaction with dual- career lifestyle had an indirect effect on commitment. Findings were discussed in the light of related literature, suggestions and implications for dual- career married couples’ relational issues were addressed.

 

Impact of past and planned investments on dual-career couples’ commitment  

Burcu Özgülük1, Zeynep Hatipoglu Sümer2
1MEF University, Istanbul, Turkey, 2Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

The Investment Model (Rusbult, 1980; 1983) proposes that partners intend to stay together strongly when they have greater satisfaction, poorer alternatives, and higher investment into their relationships. Goodfriend and Agnew (2008) extend the explanation of investment and state that as well as past investments, planned investments also have a predictive power in explaining commitment. Although investment model variables have been studied extensively in Turkey, little is known about the role of planned investments in marital relationships. Thus, the purpose of the study is to test the effect of wives’ and husbands’ past and planned investments on their commitment.

Participants were 109 dual- career married couples (N= 218) with an age range between 19 and 60. The mean age of wives was 33.57 (SD=5.69) and the mean age of husbands was 35.52 (SD= 7.06). Relationship length ranged from 6 months to 300 months (25 years) (M= 92.63, SD= 71.49). The Past and Planned Investments Measure (Goodfriend & Agnew, 2008) and the Commitment Subscale of Investment Model Scale (Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998) were utilized to collect data.

Using the Actor Partner Interdependence Model (APIM), we found that wives’ and husbands’ commitments were only affected by the investments they have done to their relationships. Wives’ commitment was influenced by their own planned investments; however, for husbands, commitment was the function of both their wives’ and their own planned investments. Findings and implications were discussed in relation to Turkish context.

 

How to kiss and make-up: Reconciliation after conflict among cohabiting couples

Julie Parsons, Karen Prager, Sining Wu, Forouz Shirvani, Jesse Poucher
The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas, USA

How romantic couples manage their conflicts predicts satisfaction concurrently and over the long term (Kurdek, 1995). Our purpose was to identify post-conflict behaviors that aid or hinder a couple’s emotional recovery from conflict. In Study 1, 348 mTurk participants reported whether they engaged in any of 23 behaviors following their most recent conflict with their partner. Using an orthogonal factor analysis, we found that these behaviors grouped into six dimensions: Physical Intimacy (e.g., affection), Seek Guidance (e.g., spirituality), Constructive Communication (e.g., apologize), Let Go (e.g., drop the conflict), Avoidance (e.g., sulk/withdraw), and Accept Differences (e.g., agree to disagree). In Study 2, 125 cohabiting couples completed a two-week diary. Each day, they reported their relationship satisfaction and intimacy. They also indicated whether or not they had a conflict. On days of conflict, participants indicated which post-conflict behaviors they engaged in. Using multi-level models with the six dimensions, we found that post-conflict physical intimacy and accepting differences predicted more relationship satisfaction and more verbal intimacy on days with conflict. In contrast, avoidance predicted less relationship satisfaction and less intimacy on days with conflict. These results suggest that the ability to recover from a conflict is partly based on the extent to which partners can restore their intimate bond, acknowledge where differences between themselves and their partner lie, and resist the urge to avoid the partner. Further, these results support Prager, Shirvani, Poucher, Cavallin, Truong, and Garcia (2015), indicating that intimacy plays a vital role in the recovery process for cohabiting couples.

 

Interpersonal-political conflict in-person and online

Natalie Pennington, Greg Paul, Soo-Hye Han
Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA

With an increased use of communication technology for everyday relational maintenance (Ellison et al., 2014), topics of discussion online become of increasing importance to study within the context of interpersonal communication. In particular, the rise of political-interpersonal conflict that can occur from engaging online is important to study from both sides: research shows that conflict can spillover from social media to negatively affect relationships offline (Fox & Moreland, 2015) and research also shows that the increasing discussion of political communication within interpersonal relationships can increase ambivalence towards the political process as individuals seek to avoid conflict with known others (Hopmann, 2012). From a social network perspective, the need for diverse opinions to bolster discussion is perceived as good, but from an interpersonal perspective the negative implications for relationships online are high: research shows politics are often the reason someone might be un-friended online (Pennington, 2015; Sibona, 2014), in addition to more serious effects within both family and romantic relationships outlined in popular news sources following the 2016 election (New York Times, 2016; Washington Post, 2016). The purpose of this study is to further explore this connection between interpersonal conflict and political discussion as it occurs through social media and the potential affect it has on relationships offline. Through the use of multi-level modeling (MLM) this study explores how strong tie and weak tie relationships interact online in regards to politics and the consequences pertaining to those connections both in terms of maintenance online and in-person.

 

Dyadic Networks: Understanding and describing the changes in the local network following the removal of significant relationships

Michael Penta
University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA

Changes in an individual’s personal network can lead to behavioral changes across all relationships they are involved in. This work examines how changes in a single relationship become expressed in the relationships surrounding it. Using mobile communication data describing the interactions of 200 college students and their relationships over a two-year period, the effects of relationships starting and stopping are examined on individuals personal networks. Using measures describing responsiveness, regularity of interaction, the frequency of interaction, asymmetry of interaction, the size of personal network, and priority of specific relationships within those networks, this work demonstrates how the significance of the relationships and presence of secondary supporting relationships alter the how individual adapt to the presence and absence of relationships. The primary results demonstrate that the introduction or removal of a significant relationship significantly alters the surrounding network behavior across all measures. Secondary results demonstrate that while individuals come to maintain the same basic size of the personal network over time, the removal of significant relationships creates long-term interaction deficits that are not fully compensated by surrounding network and the introduction of future relationships. Individuals who do not demonstrate a significant relationship do not demonstrate the same level of decrease. Average measures of responsiveness, regularity of interaction all decrease and interaction behavior and responsiveness becomes concentrated in fewer relationships over time.

 

The influence of relationship and partner characteristics on ambivalence over emotional expression

Megan Piesman1, Camilla S. Øverup1, Julie A. Brunson2, Qian Lu3
1Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ, USA, 2The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, USA, 3University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA

People vary greatly in the extent to which they act upon their desire to express emotions. Ambivalence over emotional expression (AEE) refers to when an individual desires to express emotions, positive or negative, but struggles with or regrets the expression of emotions (King & Emmons, 1990; King & Emmons, 1991). AEE has been conceptualized as an individual difference characteristic that remains stable across interactions and settings (King, 1998; Mongrain & Emmons, 1993).  However, the quality of a relationship or aspects of the interaction partner may influence the level of AEE experienced. Moreover, AEE may also vary as a function of the particular emotion that is experienced. In the current study, participants completed a baseline survey containing AEE-related scenarios, and a 7-day daily diary study in which they reported on their felt AEE with various people in their lives.  Results suggested that in scenarios involving the expression of fear and pride, feeling close to and trusting your interaction partner resulted in lower levels of AEE. Moreover, when the scenarios depicted fear and appreciation/affection, people anticipated feeling less AEE, the more argumentative the interaction partner was thought to be. People anticipated feeling more AEE when there was greater conflict within a relationship, regardless of the emotion portrayed in the scenario (anger, fear, pride, or appreciation/affection). These results suggest that when investigating ambivalence over emotional expression, it may be important to consider relationship characteristics, the characteristics of the interaction partner, and also the type of emotion being felt.

 

How the frequency and salience of heterosexist experiences influence relationship commitment and stability: A longitudinal study

TeKisha Rice, Brian Ogolsky, Ramona Oswald
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

Almost two full years have passed since the legalization of same-sex marriage in the historical Obergefell v. Hodges case. However, sexual minorities continued to experience hate crimes (National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2016) and the US fails to consistently criminalize hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation (Movement Advancement Project, 2017). Although we know little about the impact of overturned marriages (Oswald & Kuvalanka, 2008) some same-sex couples promptly married after it became legal in their state for fear that the right to marry may soon disappear (Rostosky, Riggle. Rothblum, & Balsam, 2016). Such hate crimes and feared regression in legal status produce minority stress that is theorized to adversely influence relationship outcomes (Leblanc, Frost, & Wight, 2015). Empirical findings support this theory, with both internalized and perceived stigma being negatively associated with several relationship outcomes. For example, salient experiences of micro- and macro-level minority stressors perceived as negatively impacting global relationship assessments like commitment and stability (Frost, 2011). Despite being robust predictors of dissolution (VanderDrift, Agnew, & Wilson, 2009; Le, Dove, Agnew, Korn, & Mutso, 2010), little extant research has examined the longitudinal influence of minority stressors on commitment and stability. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by examining the influence of frequent and salient heterosexist experiences on relationship commitment and instability overtime. The study is specifically embedded within a fluctuating socio-political context and tracks changes in commitment and instability across the legalization of same-sex marriage.

 

Exposure to parental partner violence in childhood: Implications for adult romantic relationships

Andrea Roach1, Lawrence Ganong0
1California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA, USA, 2University of Missouri – Columbia, Columbia, MO, USA

Parental partner-violence (PPV) is any type of physical, emotional/psychological, or sexual violence perpetrated by at least one parent against a partner in an intimate relationship. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of having witnessed PPV as a child on adult children’s perceptions of romantic relationships. A nationally-drawn sample of 452 emerging adults (ages 18-25) completed an online survey regarding their exposure to PPV as children and their perceptions of romantic relationships. Adult children who were exposed to either father- or mother-perpetrated violence were significantly more likely to display anxious or avoidant adult attachment than secure attachment. Exposure to father’s violence and mother’s violence was also associated with significantly lower levels of trust in others and lower relationship self-esteem (self-deprecating relationship beliefs). Having witnessed PPV may make it harder for adult children to have secure attachment styles, which is considered the healthiest style due to the health benefits that come from creating and maintaining satisfying intimate relationships with others. Witnessing PPV may make it harder for young adults to trust potential romantic partners, which in turn may create barriers to engaging in the kinds of emotional risk-taking and openness of feelings that contribute to building and maintaining satisfying romantic partnerships. Exposure to PPV also may make it more difficult for young adults to approach romantic relationships with a sense of optimism and confidence in how things will work out in the relationship. Implications of these findings for researchers and practitioners are discussed.

 

The role of perceived partner responsiveness on emotional expression

Yan Ruan, Harry Reis
University of Rochester, Rochester, USA

The present study examines the effect of daily fluctuations in perceived partner responsiveness on people’s emotional expression towards their close relationship partners. We are still in the process of data collection, which will be finished by the end of April. Approximately 200 undergraduate students are providing daily reports for 14 days on the degree to which they experience and express each of nine different emotions (joy, pride, gratitude, excitement, contentment, anger, anxiety, sadness) to their close relationship partners. They also report on how responsive they perceive their close relationship partner to be, and the length of interaction with their close relationship partner each day. Baseline measure of communal strength, relationship satisfaction, and trait measures of emotional regulation are collected prior to the daily recording. We hypothesize that higher perceived partner responsiveness will be associated with more emotional expression on that particular day and the next day. We also hypothesis that these results will hold when controlling for trait level emotional regulation, which we do not expect to be significantly associated with fluctuations of daily emotional expression. Theoretically, these hypotheses could support a view of emotional expression as reflecting relationship context more so than individual differences.

 

Forecasted empathy and romantic attraction

Josh Ryan, Edward Lemay
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Past research has demonstrated that dispositional empathy may be a desired characteristic of potential romantic partners, with some assertions that empathy may have evolved to orient caregivers to attend to the needs of romantic partners and offspring (de Waal, 2008; Goetz, Keltner, & Simon-Thomas, 2010). The present research expands upon past work by exploring mechanisms by which global empathy information for prospective romantic partners influences romantic attraction toward those partners through the mediation of predicted relationship-specific empathy. We also explored whether this effect would depend on prospective partners’ physical attractiveness. Participants received bogus dating profiles that varied the prospective partner’s physical attractiveness and the presence of information about the partner’s global empathic concern, and then completed measures of their romantic attraction and forecasted relationship-specific empathy. Analyses revealed significant main effects of global empathic concern information and physical attractiveness on romantic attraction. Participants were more romantically attracted to prospective romantic partners who were more physically attractive and to those who were described as having high empathic concern. Additionally, results provided evidence for a mediation model in which information about global empathic concern predicted forecasts for increased empathic concern in future romantic contexts with the self, resulting in greater romantic attraction. These effects did not depend on physical attractiveness. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.

 

Emotional disclosure and trait self-control: Implications for relationship and basic need satisfaction

Rikki H. Sargent, Kathleen J. Huber, Laura E. VanderDrift
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA

Typically, individuals with high self-control achieve positive outcomes across domains, including in romantic relationships. This benefit comes from individuals with high self-control being better able to control their negative emotions, regulate their responses to situations, and behave rationally. In the current study, we considered that whereas disclosing negative emotions is occasionally necessary to meet the need of relatedness (the need to belong and connect with other people), perhaps individuals with high self-control will find that such disclosing compromises their fulfillment of autonomy (the need to feel in control) and competence (the need to perform well and experience mastery) needs. More specifically, in the current study, among college undergraduate students (N=126; 88 women, 38 men), we hypothesized that individuals high in self-control would experience reduced autonomy and competence after disclosing negative emotions, and thus maybe even reduced relationship satisfaction, as compared to those with low self-control. Whereas these hypotheses were not supported, we found novel insight into how self-control and disclosure impact basic need satisfaction and relationship satisfaction. Analyses suggest that individuals with high self-control report higher levels of basic need satisfaction and relationship satisfaction after both positive- and negative-emotional disclosure compared to those with low self-control. Individuals with low self-control report higher levels of basic need satisfaction and relationship satisfaction after negative-emotion disclosure than after positive-emotion disclosure. These preliminary results, if replicated, suggest that emotion-disclosure’s effect depends on the discloser’s self-control.

 

Breaking down barriers towards the intimacy averse:  Behavioural methods of communicating affection to facilitate positive outcomes in avoidantly attached partners

Kristina Schrage, Jessica Maxwell, Geoff MacDonald, Emily Impett
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

How do you make an avoidant partner feel loved? The present research examines verbal and non-verbal expressions of affection that result in positive outcomes for avoidantly attached listeners.  280 couples were invited into the lab and each member was instructed to discuss a time that they felt love for their partner.  The interactions were videotaped and trained coders assessed both the speakers’ and listeners’ behaviours on a number of verbal and non-verbal behaviours. Factor analyses suggested that speakers’ behaviours clustered into dimensions of involvement (ie. love, enjoyment, expressiveness, engagement) directness (ie. emotional content, authenticity and staying on task).  Listener’s behaviours clustered onto the presence dimension (looking loved, engagement and withdrawal – reverse coded).  Self-report measures of positive emotions were also taken from speakers and listeners following the interactions.  There were main effects of speaker involvement and directness on the listener’s behavioural presence in the interaction, and positive emotion after the conversation.  Furthermore, there was a speaker involvement by listener avoidance interaction on listener presence and positive emotion.  High levels of speaker involvement yielded avoidant listener presence and positive emotions at levels as high as securely attached listeners.  Furthermore, low levels of speaker involvement was associated with lower levels of listener presence and positive emotions relative to highly involved speakers, and these drops were especially profound for highly avoidant listeners.  Taken together, our research suggests strategies for communicating affection in a manner that facilitates positive outcomes in avoidant partners.

 

Emotional interdependence in close relationships

Laura Sels, Eva Ceulemans, Peter Kuppens
KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Interdependence, including emotional interdependence, is widely considered to be a cornerstone of close relationships. Romantic partners’ are thought to influence each other often, which would lead their emotions to become interconnected over time. However, at this moment, it is still unclear what this sort of emotional interdependence actually entails. We aimed to further unravel its meaning by a dyadic interaction study in which couples (N = 101) talked about different topics in the lab followed by video-mediated recall (providing us with continuous self-report measurements of the couples’ emotions during different interactions), and next reported on their emotions multiple times a day for a week using smartphones. The resulting data were used to (1) examine if emotions between partners indeed are interconnected over time, and (2) if the degree of interpersonal connections is a stable, trait-like feature, being consistent over different time-scales (daily life vs continuous), emotions (positive vs negative), and contexts (positive vs negative), and associated with individual differences representing cognitive interdependence and relationship quality. Preliminary results suggest that on average, partners show emotional interdependence, but also that there is substantial variation (with many couples showing no substantial interconnections); and that couples are surprisingly inconsistent for the degree of interdependence they show across different time-scales and contexts. The degree of couples’ emotional interdependence is consistent, however, across different valences of emotions, and seems to be associated with cognitive interdependence and relationship quality. Unexpectedly, more emotional interdependence seems to go together with less cognitive interdependence and less relationship quality.

 

Taking the plunge: Newlyweds’ accounts of their decision to marry

Lauren Shapiro, Anthony Lucas
The Wright Institute, Berkeley, CA, USA

The decision to marry is one of the most important decisions that individuals can make. Extensive research has indicated that the quality of one’s marriage correlates with happiness (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004), health (Robles, Slatcher, Trombello, & McGinn, 2014), and financial success (Chun & Lee, 2001). Little is known, however, about how people go about making the decision to marry. Psychologists have explored how people select mates (Watson et al., 2004) and which factors contribute to increasing commitment (Stanley & Markman, 1992), but to our knowledge no study has explored how couples decide to tie the knot. The present study addresses precisely this question. As part of a larger study analyzing couples’ love stories, 42 newly engaged individuals were asked how they decided to marry. Responses were coded using thematic analysis. Participants reported a lengthy calibration process through which they assessed whether their partner’s values and vision for the future aligned with their own. For many, marriage constituted a symbolic representation of the agreement on and commitment to embarking on this joint future. Marriage was also conceptualized as a vehicle for expressing love and commitment to one’s partner and for communicating a shift in relationship status to the community. In general, social pressure and support, in the form of cultural scripts and family prodding, played a powerful role in shaping and hastening the decision to marry. Implications for couples’ therapy, and the importance of considering dyadic and group forces in shaping life course turning point romantic relationship decisions are discussed.

 

Gender differences in predictors of spousal support among men and women with recent PTSD

Brittany Shields, Kristin Mickelson
Arizona State University, Glendale, USA

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) negatively impacts lives by producing symptoms that can have a deleterious effect on individual’s social relationships. What is less clear from prior research is the process by which PTSD affects the social support an individual receives from his/her spouse and whether the process differs for men and women. The current aim of the study is to examine gender differences within this disorder and to further understand the pathways between PTSD and spousal relationships. Using the National Comorbidity Survey data, we focus on participants who have experienced PTSD within the prior year. Specifically, we investigate various psychosocial and personality predictors of positive and negative spousal support among men and women with recent PTSD. We hypothesized that low self-esteem and high external locus of control would predict lower levels of spousal support for men with PTSD, whereas religiosity would predict higher levels of spousal support for women with recent PTSD. Surprisingly, however, analyses revealed the opposite relationships. Specifically, religiosity was a significant predictor of more positive spousal support for men with PTSD (but not women). Alternatively, for women with PTSD, self-esteem was a strong predictor of more positive and less negative spousal support. Endorsement of powerful others as a locus of control was marginally related to lower positive and more negative spousal support for women with PTSD. These results are contrary to our predictions and prior theory, suggesting that the pathways between gender, PTSD and social support may be different than previously thought.

 

Infidelity’s aftermath: Appraisals, mental health, and health-compromising behaviors following a partner’s infidelity

Rosie Shrout, Daniel Weigel
University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USA

Infidelity occurs in many romantic relationships and can have damaging effects on the relationship and both partners. In particular, noninvolved partners (i.e., the partners who were cheated on in the relationship) often experience a range of emotional and psychological distress following infidelity, which may have lasting effects on the noninvolved partner’s health behavior. Given the prevalence of, and stress caused by, infidelity in romantic relationships, understanding the emotional and physical impacts of infidelity on the noninvolved partner is imperative. Viewing infidelity as a relationship stressor, this research applied a stress framework to help explain noninvolved partners’ outcomes. Specifically, as outlined by transactional stress theory, this study investigated the role of appraisals in noninvolved partners’ mental health and health-compromising behaviors after infidelity. Responses from 229 individuals (132 women and 97 men) who were cheated on in a committed relationship within the past 3 months revealed that negative appraisals (partner blame, self-blame, causal attribution) had indirect effects on health-compromising behaviors through mental health (depression, anxiety, distress). Moderated mediation analyses revealed that gender altered the indirect effect of partner and self-blame on health-compromising behaviors through mental health. Men’s health-compromising behaviors did not differ based on their appraisals or mental health. However, women who reported negative appraisals and high levels of mental health consequences engaged in more health-compromising behaviors. These findings suggest that perceptions of a partner’s infidelity are important, and that those perceptions affect noninvolved partners’ mental health and physical health behaviors.

 

Trust and responsiveness in strain-test situations: A dyadic perspective

Jeff Simpson
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

In a behavioral observation study, we tested a series of predictions about how individuals who score high versus low in chronic trust perceive and behave in “strain-test” discussions in which each individual requests a major sacrifice of his or her romantic partner. Ninety-two romantic couples identified and discussed two strain-test issues in their relationship. When in the role of asker, each partner discussed something s/he really wanted to do or accomplish that would require a large sacrifice by his/her partner, who was in the responding role. Each videotaped discussion was then rated by trained coders. We found that: (1) High trust responders were rated as more accommodating during these discussions than low trust responders; (2) High trust askers were rated as more receptive to accommodation in these discussions; (3) High trust askers overestimated the amount of accommodation they received from their responding partners; and (4) When their discussions were more threatening, high trust askers showed pre-to-post discussion increases in state trust. The findings are indicative of mutual responsiveness processes in relationships.

 

Social interactions and their influence on mating aspirations and self-esteem

Alison Slaughter, Eric Wesselmann, Matthew Hesson-McInnis
Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

Research demonstrates that self-esteem influences individuals’ mating desires. Researchers suggest that self-esteem works as a “sociometer,” fluctuating in response to social acceptance or rejection (Leary et al., 1995). We investigated how individuals’ “mating sociometer” – their perceived value to potential romantic partners – is influenced by romantic acceptance or rejection, and how these fluctuations influence mating aspirations (i.e., preference for “higher” or “lower quality” mates)? One experiment demonstrated that rejection by potential mates decreased self-esteem and, in turn, mating aspirations (Kavanagh et al., 2010). We replicated and extended this experiment using a different paradigm: we manipulated romantic acceptance and rejection by asking participants to recall the most recent time when they had experienced one of these events and try to relive the event (Chen et al., 2008). We added a control condition and included measures of participants’ general and mating-focused sociometers. Finally, we presented participants with pictures of varying physical attractiveness (high, average, low) to assess their mating aspirations.

Our preliminary results demonstrate a significant multivariate effect of condition on the self-esteem and the mate value scales, F(4, 358)=5.83, p<.001, ηp2=.06; participants in the rejected condition reported significantly lower self-esteem compared to those in the control and accepted conditions (d=.52 and d=.84, respectively). No significant differences were found for mate value. Additionally, we found a significant multivariate effect of condition on the mating aspirations ratings, F(4, 358)=2.86, p=.02, ηp2=.03; participants in the rejected condition reported significantly higher mating aspirations for high attractive targets than those in the control condition (d=.40).

 

Mate preferences in emerging adulthood and beyond: Cross-sectional and retrospective analyses to examine changes

Susan Sprecher1, Alexis Econie1, Stan Treger2 , Ryan Willard1
1Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA, 2Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA

Mate selection studies, which ask people what they want in a partner, have largely focused on sex differences and mostly been conducted with samples of young adults. Limited research has examined how mate preferences may vary across age groups. We aimed to extend research on mate preferences by examining partner trait preferences across and beyond emerging adulthood. We considered not only how mate preferences varied by age (jointly with sex), but also how mate preferences varied based on several other individual difference variables, which addresses a gap in the mate selection literature. A survey study was conducted with over 600 single, unattached adults; participants were obtained in various ways including classes at a public university, announcements on Facebook, and through Amazon Turk. Mate preferences were examined in two ways: (1) participants rated the importance of various traits; and (2) participants reported their beliefs about changes (over the “past 2-3 years”) in their mate preferences. Preliminary results indicated a negative association between age and overall “choosiness” (across traits). In addition, older participants were less likely (than younger participants) to say that their preferences on the various traits had increased over time. Furthermore, other individual differences (beyond sex and age) were found to affect mate preferences. For example, those who believed that finding a mate was difficult and those who were shy were less choosy in their preferences. Several other findings will be presented including for different clusters of traits (e.g., physical attractiveness vs. resources).

 

Interdependence and closeness in getting-acquainted dyads

Susan Sprecher
Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

Interdependence and closeness are considered essential components of an intimate relationship. These core processes, however, can also be manifested in one-time interactions between strangers. Aron et al. (1997) and others have created laboratory-based procedures for developing a temporary feeling of closeness and interdependence between getting-acquainted strangers; the procedures involve dyads discussing topics that increase in intimacy. This procedure has been used in many research labs to examine various predictors of initial interdependence within dyads. The predictors have included types and degree of self-disclosure, responsiveness, medium of communication, and individual difference variables (e.g., attachment). This author has used adaptations of prior structured self-disclosure tasks to foster closeness and interdependence in getting-acquainted dyads. Across several laboratory studies conducted by the author and involving hundreds of dyads, interdependence/closeness has been measured by Aron et al.’s (1992) Inclusion of Other in Self (IOS) and by a subjective measure of closeness; the measures were often administered more than once in the interactions. The presentation will focus on results across several studies (published and unpublished) concerning factors that lead to or are associated with interdependence and closeness in initial interactions.

 

The relationship between dispositional mindfulness, adult attachment orientations, and emotion regulation

Jodie Stevenson, Lisa-Marie Emerson, Abigail Millings
The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Mindfulness has been conceptualized as a dispositional trait, which differs across individuals. Previous research has independently identified both adult attachment orientations and emotion regulation abilities as correlates of dispositional mindfulness. This research also presented a two-factor model of the relationship between these three constructs. The present study aimed to further develop this model and investigated theses relationships in a sample of 186 participants. Participants completed the Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire Short Form (FFMQ-SF), the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale for global attachment (ECR), the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERC), and the Adult Disorganized Attachment scale (ADA). Exploratory factor analysis revealed a 3-factor solution accounting for 59% of the variance across scores on these measures. The first factor accounted for 32% of the variance and loaded highly on attachment and mindfulness sub-scales. The second factor accounted for 15% of the variance with strong loadings on emotion regulation sub-scales. The third factor accounted for 12% of the variance with strong loadings on disorganized attachment and the mindfulness observe sub-scale. The results further confirm the relationship between attachment, mindfulness, and emotion regulation along with the unique addition, and interaction, of adult disorganized attachment. The extracted factors will then be used to predict well-being outcomes for an undergraduate student population.

 

Social integration and self-esteem: The influence of “weak ties” in mid- and later life

Jeffrey E Stokes
Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

Self-esteem is an important yet understudied aspect of well-being among adults in mid- and later life. Self-esteem is not only related with other domains of psychological well-being such as personal happiness, but may also be important for individuals’ success in maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. Furthermore, adults’ self-esteem may be susceptible to social influences, both by close social partners and by more mundane and peripheral relationships. This study focuses on the latter of those potential influences, examining whether adults’ perceptions of social integration in their communities impacts their self-esteem over an approximately 9-year span. Data for this project were garnered from the two most recent (second and third) waves of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS, 2004-2014). The sample included 6,773 observations from 4,204 individuals aged 30-84 at baseline. Fixed-effects and random-effects models both revealed a significant positive association between social integration and self-esteem. Moreover, a significant interaction term demonstrated that the impact of social integration on self-esteem varied according to individuals’ neuroticism, with more neurotic individuals being more strongly influenced by their communities’ social integration. These findings suggest that even everyday relationships with neighbors-or the perceived lack thereof-may serve as meaningful influences on middle-aged and older adults’ self-esteem over time. Implications for theory and future research regarding neighborhoods, interpersonal relationships, and well-being will be discussed.

 

Commitment desirability

Kenneth Tan1, Christopher Agnew2
1Singapore Management University, Singapore, Singapore, 2Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

At any given time, not everyone seeks to be in committed relationships, despite evidence that people may be fearful of remaining single. This talk describes and provides evidence in support of the usefulness of the concept of commitment desirability, defined as the subjective desire to be involved in a committed romantic relationship. Data from three independent samples are presented. Studies 1 and 2 involved the creation of a unidimensional Commitment Desirability scale. Exploratory factor analysis indicated that the 5 scale items load highly on a single factor and subsequent confirmatory factor analysis suggest that the scale items evidenced good model fit. Using this scale, commitment desirability was found to be negatively associated with attachment avoidance, rejection sensitivity, and loneliness. Consistent with hypotheses, the scale was not associated significantly with attachment anxiety or need for cognition. Using a subset of the sample including only those who were in a romantic relationship, we also examined how individuals navigated their current relationship experiences by aligning their desire for commitment with perceived partner commitment. We found that individuals high in commitment desirability were more likely to be dependent and less likely to consider dissolution with their partners, especially when they perceived their partners to be high in commitment. Finally, we present experimental evidence demonstrating that individuals higher in own commitment desirability express greatest romantic interest in targets who themselves are particularly interested in a committed relationship, suggesting that individuals are motivated to seek out partners who help in achieving their own commitment attainment goals.

 

Relationship-protective properties of insecurity: Attachment anxiety, security-regulation goals, and pro-relationship behavior

Nadya Teneva, Edward Lemay
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Attachment anxiety is characterized by chronic worries about abandonment and rejection from close partners. Although it has been identified as detrimental to many aspects of interpersonal relationships, attachment theory suggests that attachment anxiety functions to increase proximity to caregivers and elicit their responsiveness. Accordingly, the current research tested a model positing positive interpersonal effects of attachment anxiety. Specifically, anxious people and their romantic partners may develop security regulation goals in their relationships, which are goals to regulate their romantic partner’s sense of being cared for and valued. In turn, these goals may predict enactment of pro-relationship behavior by anxious people and their partners, which may bolster security in being valued by partners and reduce the persistence of attachment anxiety over time.  These predictions were tested in a dyadic prospective study of romantic relationships using a combination of self-report, behavioral observation, and informant measures. Our results suggest that attachment anxiety triggers security regulation goals in anxious people and their romantic partners. These security regulation goals, in turn, appeared to motivate pro-relationship behaviors that improve the relationship satisfaction and security of both partners, facilitating a decline in attachment anxiety over time. This research suggests that attachment anxiety motivates pro-relationship interpersonal processes that may contribute to the alleviation of anxiety and offset some of its interpersonal costs.

 

The interplay between self-compassion, attachment security & relational attributions on marital satisfaction

Hilal Terzi, Nebi Sümer
Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

This study aims to investigate the dyadic effects of adult attachment related anxiety (ANX) and avoidance (AVOI), self-compassion, and relational attributions on marital satisfaction (MS) with a double-mediation model. It is expected that couples’ MS will be predicted by a set of two sequential links from adult attachment dimensions to self-compassion and then to relational attributions. In this study, spouses’ ANX was expected to predict their self-compassion level, which in turn direct the way they make attributions for their partner behavior, and in turn this predicts MS. Self-Compassion was expected to mediate the relationship between ANX and relational attributions. Married couples (N = 148) participated in this study. Data were analyzed using The Actor-Partner Interdependence Double Mediation Modelling (APIDMeM) tested with Lisrel 9.2 to reveal actor and partner effects on couple dyads. Results yielded a number of significant actor and partner effects that seemed to reflect the culturally related gender roles. Findings suggested that proposed double mediation model was supported. Double mediated paths from wives’ ANX to both their own and their partners’ MS were significant, whereas for husbands it was significant only for their own MS. Wives’ ANX and AVOI, self-compassion, and relational attributions were found to be associated with both their own and their partners’ MS, while only husbands’ ANX was found to have a direct effect on wives’ MS. Results indicate that husbands became maritally dissatisfied when their wives behave -culturally incongruent- emotionally distant, whereas husbands’ -culturally incongruent- intimacy demanding behaviors make their wives less satisfied.

 

Stressed out: The daily benefits of exercise and maintenance in romantic relationships

Jaclyn Theisen, Brian Ogolsky, Angela Wiley
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, USA

In romantic relationships, stress can slowly erode relationships, but how individuals cope with stress is associated with relationship satisfaction (Sullivan, Pasch, Johnson, & Bradbury, 2010). The Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation (VSA) model suggests that adaptive processes buffer the negative effects of stress (Karney & Bradbury, 1995). Individuals can alleviate stress by engaging in individual and relational behaviors. Engaging in relationship maintenance can help individuals target stress by focusing on the partner and the dyadic relationship, whereas exercise, an individual behavior, can alleviate an individual’s stress. However, are these relational and individual behaviors more beneficial on days of high stress? A four-year longitudinal study discovered that individuals were less satisfied when experiencing greater levels of stress (Karney, Story, & Bradbury, 2005; Neff & Karney, 2004). Studies that have compared couples with high versus low levels of stress found steeper declines in marital satisfaction and higher rates of marital dissolution for couples that faced greater stress (Bahr, 1979; Conger, Rueter, & Elder, 1999). Thus, our study seeks to examine how relationship maintenance and exercise influence relationship satisfaction on days of higher and lower reports of stressful life events. Daily diary data on physical activity, relationship satisfaction, stress, and perception of relationship maintenance were collected for 14 consecutive days from a sample of 144 couples. Preliminary results show maintenance and exercise are associated with relationship satisfaction, and couples with higher stress had lower satisfaction than couples with lower stress.

 

Investigating levels of intimate partner violence in friends with benefits relationships

Rebecca Thomas, Rebecca Weston
The University of Texas San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, USA

IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) is a major public health concern, with an estimated 25% of women and 14% of men experiencing IPV in their lifetime (Breiding et al., 2008). Although much of the research on IPV has focused on committed relationships, IPV can also occur in friends with benefits relationships (FWBRs), or relationships that combine aspects of sex and friendship (VanderDrift, Lehmiller, & Kelly, 2012). Considering that FWBRs are common among college students, with over half of participants on multiple campuses reporting experience with FWBRs (McGinty et al., 2007; Mongeau et al., 2003; Puentes et al., 2008), it is important to investigate IPV in FWBRs.

Data were collected from 402 undergraduates (297 females; 105 males). Participants completed the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory (PMWI; Tolman, 1999) and the Severity of Violence Against Women/Men Scale (SVAW/MS; Marshall, 1992). Commitment was measured by asking how many FWBRs participants had experienced during the past year. Data were analyzed using ANCOVAs.

Participants were split into two commitment groups: participants of FWBRs and participants of committed relationships. Males showed no differences in IPV by commitment grouping. However, females in FWBRs experienced more psychological victimization, psychological perpetration, physical perpetration, and physical victimization, even after accounting for opportunity, or number of partners. These results suggest that females in FWBRs experience higher levels of IPV than females in committed relationships, regardless of total number of partners. Implications will be discussed.

 

Perceived excitement drives benefits of self-expanding activities

Jennifer M. Tomlinson1, Erin K. Hughes2, Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr.2, Arthur Aron3, Rachel Geyer1
1Colgate University, Hamilton, NY, USA, 2Monmouth University, Monmouth, NJ, USA, 3Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, USA

Participation in self-expanding activities with a partner has benefits for both relationships and the self (e.g. Aron, Lewandowski, Mashek, & Aron, 2013). However, most studies involve tasks that combine excitement, challenge, and physiological arousal within one activity, making it difficult to know what drives the benefits. We tested the effects independently in three studies. In Study 1, 128 college-aged pairs participated in an experiment designed to independently manipulate challenge and arousal. A series of 2x2 ANCOVA’s (controlling for pre-test) showed main effects of both challenge and arousal on self-expansion and positive affect. Perceptions of excitement during the task (controlling for perceptions of challenge and arousal) predicted increased self-expansion, relationship satisfaction, and positive affect, and decreased negative affect. In Study 2, 200 married individuals reported perceptions of excitement, challenge, and arousal during activities done with their spouse during the past week. Simultaneous regression analysis showed that perceptions of excitement (controlling for challenge and arousal) predicted increased relationship self-expansion, closeness, relationship satisfaction, self-efficacy, and positive affect, and decreased negative affect. In Study 3, 202 individuals reported perceptions of excitement, challenge, and arousal during activities done with their closest friend during the past week. As in Study 2, simultaneous regression analysis showed that perceptions of excitement (controlling for challenge and arousal) predicted increased relationship self-expansion, closeness, relationship satisfaction, self-efficacy, and positive affect, and decreased negative affect. Together, results suggest that perceived excitement during self-expanding activities is a crucial factor and may be even more important than perceptions of challenge and arousal.

 

Conceptualizing rejection in mobile dating apps

Chad Van De Wiele, Melina Garcia
University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, USA

Mobile dating applications (MDAs) have reshaped the initial formation process of romantic partnership in the digital age. Recent data have shown that an increasing number of individuals are using mobile dating applications in the pursuit of romantic connection. Yet, despite their apparent ubiquity, MDAs remain largely understudied. While previous research has identified the detrimental effects of rejection in romantic partnerships, little has been done to advance our understanding of rejection in light of these emergent technologies. Through an open-ended survey of MDA users, the current research seeks to advance our understanding of how rejection occurs within the context of mobile dating.

 

First love relationships: A Replication and extension

Alexandra VanBergen
SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, USA

A first love relationship was defined as a romantic relationship with the first person one considers to have truly loved. This concept is subjective in nature. Alapack (1984) phenomenologically studied adolescent first love relationships through interviews with college students. The current study aimed to (1) understand how first love relationships have changed over thirty years by replicating and extending Alapack’s work, (2) how first love relationships differ depending on the developmental period of onset; and (3) investigate its potential to impact future relationships based on what was learned. A mixed methods study was conducted. Participants (N = 150) engaged in an online survey including open-ended questions and various scales (e.g., passionate love scale). Preliminary findings during an open exploration of themes found old (e.g., reciprocity) and new (e.g., increased sexual activity, filling a void) themes. Lessons about the self (e.g., self-worth), communication, introspection, treatment, and expectations were also found.

 

Backstory communication and the power of personal experience within interpersonal relationships 

Haley Vellinga
The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA

Understanding how an individual’s “backstory” influences dyadic relationships speaks to unexplored complexities of the interpersonal communicative choices a person makes. The HBO acclaimed series, Westworld, illuminates how knowing an individual’s backstory explains the processes and reasons behind a person’s cognitive, social, and psychological choices (Nolan & Joy, 2017). TED Talk featured the writer of Toy Story and WALL-E, Andrew Stanton, who argued that in sharing of one’s past, others are better able to understand that individual’s present story (Stanton, 2012). Although it is quite possible that pop culture has stumbled upon an important phenomenon of how humans relate, it is disconcerting how the backstory remains largely unexplored by relationship scholars.

Examining the power of personal backstories and how marginalized, silenced individuals communicate their stories is crucial as tensions of race and class, gender and sexuality are at an all-time high (Stockman, 2017). Anderson (1996) states, “Good scholarship calls on us to strive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. That effort will lead us to the emancipatory struggle-a crucible of good intentions and corrective opposition” (p. 197). This epistemological call is for relationship scholars to delve deeper into the nuances of personal backstories to understand the interdependent and interactional dynamics of human connection.

 

Digital sex talk: An exploration of sexting usage in college student relationships

Alyce Viens
Bryant University, Smithfield, RI, USA

With an increase in the prevalence of sexting in our society the research examining its usage in adult romantic relationships is still relatively new. Variables of frequency of usage, expectancies of sexting, and the impact on relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction have been examined separately. This study represents a mixed methods approach in which initial quantitative data was collected on the relationship between frequency and expectancy of sexting and the influence on relationship and sexual satisfaction for some couples. Conditions of high and low frequency, as well as positive and negative expectancy, were created and analyzed against satisfaction levels. There were no significant differences found between any of the conditions on either satisfaction level. As a follow up, qualitative research was conducted through semi-structured interviews examining the perceptions, motivations for usage, and impact sexting has on relationships among college students. Both quantitative and qualitative data results will be presented to provide a deeper look into a sparsely studied area with discussions for directions of future research.

 

Cardiac- disease- induced-PTSD (CDI-PTSD): A dyadic perspective

Noa Vilchinsky, Rachel Dekel, Keren Fait
Bar-Ilan University, Ranat-Gan, Israel

Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe emotional reaction to a concrete stressor. In recent years, much scientific attention has been devoted to exploring the possibility that illnesses and especially cardiac illness might also be regarded as causes of PTSD. However, only a handful of studies have focused on coping with cardiac-disease-induced PTSD (CDI-PTSD) from a dyadic perspective.

Methods: In a prospective, longitudinal design, 91 couples, in which one partner have had a recent acute cardiac event, were interviewed during hospitalization (baseline) and at follow up, three months later about their fear of illness progression, depression, anxiety and CDI-PTSD.

Findings: Preliminary findings detected that for both patients and caregivers, each partner’s fear of progression was associated with his/her own levels of CDI-PTSD, both measured at follow up, controlling for baseline levels of depression and anxiety. It was also detected that male patients’ FOP was associated with their female caregivers’ CDI-PTSD but not vise verse. Thus, female caregivers were more susceptible to patients’ fears than male patients were.

Discussion: We will discuss the unique ramifications of PTSD resulting from cardiac illness in the family in terms of dyadic effects of PTSD, non-verbal communication patterns, spillover of distress and support transactions. Applying the dyadic paradigm in the context of PTSD and cardiac illnesses is critical in order to better understand patients’ and caregivers’ adjustment processes.

Won’t you touch me? The impact of adult attachment styles on intimate touch

Samantha Wagner1, Allison McKinnon1, Maggie Parker1, Edwin Ortiz1, Joanne Davila2, Matthew Johnson1, Nicole Cameron1, Frank Middleton3, Richard Mattson1
1Binghamton University -SUNY, Binghamton, New York, USA, 2Stony Brook University- SUNY, Long Island, New York, USA, 3SUNY Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse, New York, USA

Research suggests that proximity seeking is a major component of adult attachment relationships, and that an important aspect of proximity seeking is intimate touch.  Although individuals with differing adult attachment styles often have differing levels of proximity seeking; to date, little research has been done on the impact that attachment has on intimate touch in romantic relationships. The current study examined 187 heterosexual couples recruited from upstate New York who completed both the Revised Adult Attachment Scale and the Physical Affection Scale.  It was hypothesized that individuals with more secure attachment features would have higher levels of satisfaction with, and engage more in, intimate touch, as would their partners, relative to individuals with less secure styles (e.g., anxious). Additionally, it was hypothesized that there would be an effect of anxious attachment on individual and partner touch engagement and satisfaction. Utilizing the actor partner interdependence model, we found no significant relationship between secure attachment features and intimate touch. However, individuals with anxious attachment styles were less satisfied with intimate touch in their relationship, and had partners who were less likely to engage in intimate touch. These findings suggest that attachment styles are relevant to intimate touch preferences and behaviors exchanged between intimate partners. They also provide the groundwork for additional research examining dyadic processes that link with particular attachment styles (e.g., approach-withdrawal communication) and may explain associations with poorer quality intimate touch in romantic relationships.

 

Plan a date!: Self-expanding relationship activities and the role of approach relationship goals

Deanna Walker, Cheryl Harasymchuk
Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

People high in approach relationship goals experience greater relationship satisfaction (e.g., Impett et al., 2010); however, little research has explored why these individuals are more satisfied in their relationships. We propose that one reason people high in approach relationship goals are more satisfied is because they are more inclined to engage in self expanding activities with their partner- activities that are known to be associated with increased relationship satisfaction (Aron et al., 2000). The current study investigated the association between individual differences in relationship goals and the content of shared couple activities that people plan and engage in with their partners.  We predicted that people high in approach relationship goals would plan and engage in activities that were more self-expanding (i.e., novel, creative, and exciting) in the context of their romantic relationship. Dating participants (N  =  135) were invited to participate in a two-part study where they were first asked to plan a date to engage in with their partner in the upcoming week and were then contacted one week later to assess the content and quality of their enacted activity. We found that people with higher approach relationship goals planned and engaged in activities with their partner that were more self-expanding (a pattern that was significantly weaker for avoidance relationship goals). This research provides implications for understanding the connection between relationship goals, self-expanding activities, and relationship satisfaction.

 

What happens to me when we decline?: Changes in relationship satisfaction predict reduced self-concept clarity

Courtney Walsh1, Lisa Neff1, Nickola Overall2
1University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA, 2The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Romantic relationships are an integral aspect of individuals’ lives, impacting health, general well-being, and even one’s understanding of the self. In recent years, relationship researchers have begun to uncover the associations between relationships and the self-concept. Specifically, the current study extends research showing that relationship dissolution predicts reduced self-concept clarity. In two separate studies, we observed the relationships of long-term committed couples to determine whether changes in relationship quality, absent of dissolution, would predict reduced self-concept clarity. First using a 3-week diary survey from 78 couples of various relationship statuses we observed the daily lagged associations between relationship satisfaction and self-concept clarity. We found that previous-day relationship satisfaction predicted self-concept clarity on the following day; however, the reverse association was not supported. Previous-day self-concept clarity did not predict satisfaction on the following day. In Study 2 we used questionnaires from 171 newlywed couples to test the longitudinal associations between changes in relationship satisfaction and subsequent self-concept clarity. We found that spouses who reported declines in relationship satisfaction across the first 18 months of marriage exhibited lower self-concept clarity at the 18-month assessment. Taken together, the results from this study suggest that not only do relationship transitions predict self-concept clarity, both daily fluctuations and long term declines in relationship quality are also important for committed couples. Furthermore, while previous experiments suggest self-concept clarity may cause changes in satisfaction, the current study provides evidences that daily relationship satisfaction more strongly predicts self-concept clarity than the inverse associations.

 

Emotional responses of infidelity partners

Dana Weiser1, Daniel Weigel2
1Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA, 2University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USA

Infidelity necessarily involves three or more individuals. Researchers have explored the emotional experiences of infidelity victims and infidelity transgressors, but not the emotional experiences of infidelity partners (the third party to a relationship). Infidelity victims experience jealousy, hurt, anger, and disgust (Becker et al., 2004). Individuals who commit an infidelity also experience distress (Hall & Fincham, 2009). The current project explores the emotional reactions of infidelity partners. Participants were 138 past or current infidelity partners (M age = 27.4 years; 42 men, 93 women). 31.9% of participants were aware from the beginning that they were an infidelity partner. Participants completed the Intensity and Duration of Emotional Distress Index (Simpson, 1990; M = 4.15, SD = 1.90, range = 1.00-7.50, α = .92). Individuals who knew they were infidelity partners from the beginning of involvement reported significantly lower emotional distress compared to those who did not know they were infidelity partners initially [3.38 vs. 4.48, F (1,33) = 10.25, p = .002, partial η2 = .07]. Participants also responded to an open-ended question asking them to describe their feelings about being an infidelity partner and responses were coded. Most participants reported negative emotions such as hurt and betrayal (56.5%) whereas others reported neutral emotions (i.e., not emotionally bothered; 23.4%). Chi-square analyses indicated individuals who knew they were infidelity partners were more likely to report neutral emotions and individuals who were unaware were more likely to report hurt/betrayal [χ2 (5) = 45.91, p < .001]. Participants’ open-ended responses will be detailed further.

 

The interaction of gender and perceived capitalization responses predicts sleep quality

Saya Weissman, Jessica Paek, Maxwell Mikelic, Katherine Zee, Niall Bolger
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Capitalization is the process through which one person shares good news with a close other (e.g, a friend, family member, or partner). Responding to others’ good news in an “active-constructive” manner can amplify the benefits of this positive news for both the sharer and responder. While previous work has shown the association between capitalization and relationship quality, little research has been conducted on the association between perceptions of capitalization responses by gender, and in health outcomes in romantic partners. The present work examines the effects of perceived capitalization responses on sleep quality, and tests whether these effects may vary by gender. We propose that men are more sensitive to active-constructive capitalization responses in relation to sleep quality, whereas women are more sensitive to negative capitalization responses (i.e. passive constructive, passive deconstructive, and active deconstructive) in association with sleep quality. Romantic couples (N = 66 dyads) attended a laboratory session during which they reported their prior night’s sleep quality, and general perceptions of their partners’ capitalization responses were measured. Results indicate gender interacted with perceptions of active-constructive responding and with perceptions of negative capitalization responses. As perceptions of active-constructive responding increased, men’s, but not women’s, sleep quality increased. As perceptions of negative capitalization responding increased, women’s, but not men’s, sleep quality decreased. These results provide the first evidence of which we know that demonstrates the effects of capitalization support on sleep quality, and highlight one mechanism through which relationships may ultimately influence health.

 

I love myself(ie): An arts-based investigation of fitness identity

Marissa Wiley1, Phillip Wagner2
1University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA, 2University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, Sarasota, FL, USA

This study explores how individuals actively pursuing physical fitness negotiate that identity intrapersonally, interpersonally, and within the greater structure of fitness culture (an understudied intergroup context). Previous work exploring men’s pursuit of fitness has justified the need for more critical, self-reflexive examinations of this pursuit. Using a communication framework of identity, this work extends current scholarship by exploring how both men and women perceive and seek out support for their fitness endeavors and the centrality of identity in that pursuit. Hinging upon Hecht’s (1993) Communication Theory of Identity, this work situates fitness identity as a communicative construct, negotiated across competing domains. As this identity negotiation often plays out in a visual way through body aesthetics (i.e., muscularity for men; meeting the thin ideal for women), this study uses visual methodology to analyze the communicative negotiations of fitness identity. Participants completed a combination of daily diaries and participatory photography (photovoice) to document their day-to-day interactions as they relate to fitness. These diaries were gathered and coded for both their textual and visual thematic arcs. Final results build upon previous participatory photographic work in fitness identity scholarship (i.e., Wagner, 2016), and highlight the ways in which fitness identity is negotiated across personal, relational, enacted, and communal identity frames. Deeper discussion and exploration is provided for ways in which participants use strategic communication (both verbal and corporeal) to navigate identity gaps (or tensions) produced through identity misalignment among identity frames.

 

Infidelity as a trauma: Empirical research linking infidelity experience and posttraumatic stress symptoms 

Victoria Willetts, Lydia Roos, Meredith Griffin, Amy Canevello, Jeanette Bennett
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, USA

Clinical observations have led to a conceptualization of infidelity as a traumatic event (Baucom, Gordon, Snyder, Atkins, & Christensen, 2006); clients frequently report intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, hyperarousal symptoms, difficulty concentrating, and avoidance behaviors. Additionally, negative cognitions after a traumatic event is an underlying factor in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) psychopathology (Kumpula et al., 2016). Clinical findings mirror this; following infidelity, clients frequently report shattering of core beliefs and violated fundamental assumptions essential to emotional security. Despite the high incidence of infidelity in relationships (~25-50%) and its association with devastating and lingering psychological effects, no known research has empirically investigated the prevalence of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) following infidelity. The present study investigated self-reported PTSS and posttraumatic cognitions (PTC) in 76 individuals (average age 19.68 yrs ± 3.06) who experienced romantic infidelity more than one month ago. Results demonstrate that 64% of participants who experienced infidelity in the past 12 months met or exceeded the cutoff score for probable diagnosis of PTSD, while 47% of participants for whom infidelity occurred between one and five years ago met or exceeded the cutoff score. Furthermore, PTSS and PTC were positively associated, suggesting the effects of infidelity parallel other traumas. Findings provide a basis for empirical data linking infidelity and PTSS and contribute to the understanding of how infidelity may impact psychological wellbeing through PTC. Future research should investigate traumatic responses to infidelity using well-established diagnostic tools and varying samples.

 

Personality and sex differences in dating couples’ “money talk”

Carol L Wilson
The Pennsylvania State University, Erie, PA, USA

Disagreements involving money are associated with relationship satisfaction, unresolved conflict, and divorce in correlational research.  Studies of individual participants in the laboratory have shown money reminders to result in greater self-focus and reduced focus on others. Combining experimental methodology on money primes with a focus on couples in a dyadic context, the current study examined the priming power of money on couple’s self- vs. other-oriented dialogue during a joint decision-making task.  A second aim was to examine potential personality moderators of the link between money and a self-focused orientation. Fifty-three heterosexual couples were randomly assigned to plan a romantic trip for two while adhering to either budgetary (money condition) or non-budgetary (control condition) constraints.  Transcripts of the videotaped dialogue were analyzed for self vs. other-oriented word usage using Linguistic Inquiry Word Count software. Results from Actor Partner Interdependence Models demonstrate fewer social and personal pronoun usage, and less “we talk” for females, in the money condition.  In addition, the effects of partner personality moderated the use of self vs. other-oriented language during the money condition, particularly with regard to communal orientation and egoistic concerns.  Implications exist for understanding the nature of money as a leading conflict topic among romantic couples.

 

Hiding feelings for whose sake? Attachment avoidance, relationship closeness, and protective buffering

Heike Winterheld
Washington University, St. Louis, USA

Protective buffering, a coping strategy that involves hiding worries from one’s partner, may carry mental health costs for both those enacting it and the target of their protection. Although the strategy is often assumed to be targeted at a partner to shield him or her from distress (i.e., used with partner-protective intentions), it can also be used for one’s own benefit (i.e., with self-protective intentions). The major goals of this research were to (1) identify dispositional and relational factors that may explain and predict when people use protective buffering to what end, and (2) test whether self-protective and partner-protective intentions are associated with distinct mental health outcomes. Guided by attachment theory, four studies (total N = 917) using individuals (Studies 1-3) and dating/married couples (Study 4) were conducted. Study 1 showed that highly avoidant individuals deem it wrong to burden their partner with distress expressions, and that such beliefs increase with greater dependence on the partner. In Studies 2-4, highly avoidant individuals reported using protective buffering to spare their partner when feeling strongly connected to him or her. However, when feeling less connected, highly avoidant individuals used protective buffering to minimize their own distress. Moreover, individuals who intended to self-protect reported more depressive symptoms; at the dyadic level, individuals also reported more mental health symptoms when their partner had greater self-protective intentions. By contrast, partner-protective intentions (individuals’ own or their partners’) were unrelated to mental health. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.

 

Is their lack of trust really unwarranted? How self-esteem predicts partner responsiveness

Joanne V. Wood, Kassandra Cortes
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Having a responsive partner is important for trust in relationships. Unfortunately, people with low self-esteem (LSEs) feel less trust and perceive their partners to be less responsive than do high self-esteem people (HSEs). Although the common assumption has been that LSEs’ negative partner perceptions are “all in their heads”—a reflection of their negative self-projection—we argue that LSEs’ views of lower partner responsiveness are, in fact, warranted. That is, interdependence with LSEs may reduce partner responsiveness, which may be accurately understood by LSEs. In Studies 1-3, we examined LSEs’ and HSEs’ perceptions of their partners’ responsiveness to their negative self-disclosures, and compared them with partners’ reports (Study 2), and ratings from objective coders following a negative experience created in the lab (Study 3). Consistent with our hypothesis, partners of LSEs were less responsive than partners of HSEs to disclosers’ negative self-disclosures. Study 4 explored possible mechanisms behind these self-esteem differences. The finding that partners of LSEs (vs. HSEs) are less responsive may contribute to LSEs’ lack of trust and poorer relationships.

 

Interdependence between romantic partners during the transition to parenthood: Themes of partner facilitation and partner interference

Deborah Yoon, Jennifer Theiss
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA

Couples face a multitude of personal and relational changes during the transition to parenthood. As partners shift from being partners to becoming parents, they must embrace new roles and adapt to different behavioral routines. Relational turbulence theory suggests that during major relationship transitions, partners often experience turmoil as they struggle to integrate new identities and coordinate new patterns of interdependence. Drawing on the logic of relational turbulence theory, the goal of this study was to identify the ways that romantic partners facilitate or interfere with individual goals and routines during the transition to parenthood. To evaluate sources of partner facilitation and partner interference, we conducted a longitudinal study of 78 couples (156 individuals) at four points during the transition to parenthood (pre-birth, one month, three months, and six months after birth). During each wave, both partners described the challenges they were experiencing with their partner and the various things their partner had done to and make life easier. The researchers conducted open and axial coding on all open-ended responses to identify themes of partner interference and partner facilitation. Results indicated 10 sources of partner interference: (a) routine/life style changes, (b) intimacy and romance, (c) effective communication, (d) finances, scheduling, (e) time, (f) returning to work, (g) distribution of labor, (h) stress, and (i) outside factors. In addition, there were four sources of partner facilitation: (a) sharing responsibilities, (b) tangible support, (c) emotional support, and (d) prioritizing relationship. The findings have implications for maintaining interdependence during the transition to parenthood.

 

The meaning of friendship and its importance for wellbeing throughout adulthood

Victoria Zeeb
UCL, London, UK

The objective of this study is to examine the conceptualisation and meaning of friendship throughout adulthood and its importance for wellbeing. A substantial evidence base within the psychology of wellbeing literature shows that connecting with others is a fundamental constituent of human wellbeing. However, most psychological research looking at adult relationships has focused on family and romantic relationships. This study is an exploratory study that uses a mixed-methods approach to address this gap.  The Grid Elaboration Method (GEM), a free associative technique, is applied to explore the meaning of friendship for adults living in Britain’s two largest cities, London and Birmingham. A survey is administered to capture subjective and objective measures of social connectedness, as well as personal wellbeing.  A sample of 52 respondents, aged between 18-70, recruited by a professional recruitment agency, is used. Thematic analysis of the GEM data reveals that friendship is a very particularly type of relationship that relies on certain key characteristics being met. Though support is important in friendships, particularly in the light of family breakdowns, friend relationships cannot be reduced to this factor alone. A unique aspect of friendship is its ability to offer a temporarily escape from one’s role and responsibilities at home and work. Furthermore, differences in the meaning of friendship are observed across the lifespan as well as between men and women. Lastly, analysis of the survey data shows a positive correlation between quality of friendships and wellbeing.

 

Family interactions in the mall: An exploratory observational study focusing on father-child relations

Ying Zhang
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA

The satisfaction of regular occurring family activities has been found to predict family functioning and believed to link to better outcomes for children including positive cognitive development, better problem-solving skills, and greater peer competence. The present study adopted the observational method that has a unique advantage of catching whole family dynamics and father-child dyadic interaction in a naturalistic setting. Five stores in a shopping mall in New York State were chosen to be the observational location and 30 families were included in the qualitative data analysis. The results showed that fathers perceive their roles in stores as a combination of caregivers, co-caregivers, playmates, learning facilitators, and safety guards according to the shopping goal, present/absence of mother and older siblings, and the store physical set up. Children showed a higher level of energy and happiness compare to their parents. They mostly initiate the dyadic interactions with parents including play with fathers, communicate with parents with the concurrency of actively observe the environment and parental behaviors. The results raise the possibility that father involvement in daily shopping activity may be critical to children’s development via play activities and a satisfying marital relationship by father’s taking of caregiver roles in public places. These findings support Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory that father’s specific influence is through a sensitive response to children that build up a proximal process to promote children’s development. Future study directions are discussed with the focuses on father involvement, father-children relations, and children’s social-emotional development.