Much Ado about your thing: Conflict structure moderates the effect of attachment anxiety on postconflict perceived self-partner overlap

Rosemary E. Bernstein, Sean M. Laurent, Heidemarie K. Laurent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Romantic attachment anxiety-the chronic tendency to seek approval from and fear abandonment by romantic partners-is a strong negative predictor of relationship quality, which is in turn a multifaceted construct that includes perceived self-partner overlap (i.e., individuals' sense of "oneness" with their partner). Potentially, discussing an issue of conflict within a relationship could be particularly threatening for individuals higher in romantic attachment anxiety, while at the same time presenting an opportunity for renewed closeness. To understand how and when attachment anxiety contributes to poor relationship outcomes, it is important to characterize the conflict conditions under which attachment anxiety predicts greater versus diminished selfpartner overlap. The present study (n = 75 heterosexual couples) tested the hypothesis that the structure of an unresolved conflict discussion (i.e., whether the topic was selfor partner-nominated) would moderate the association between attachment anxiety and postconflict self-partner overlap. We found that increased attachment anxiety predicted increased self-partner overlap after discussing one's own topic but did not predict less overlap after discussing one's partner's topic. Implications for research and clinical practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-179
Number of pages12
JournalCouple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Attachment anxiety
  • Conflict structure
  • Romantic attachment
  • Romantic partner conflict
  • Self-other overlap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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