An application of attachment theory to relational messages and nonverbal involvement behaviors in romantic relationships.
AuthorGuerrero, Laura Knarr.
Committee ChairBurgoon, Judee K.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractAttachment styles are conceptualized as social interaction styles that include one's own communication style, the way one processes and interprets others' behavior, and the way one reacts to others' behavior. It was argued that attachment-style differences should be evident in relational messages of intimacy and dominance, nonverbal involvement behaviors, and reactions to increases and decreases in immediacy and positive affect. Based on an attachment-style pretest, 80 dyads involved in enduring romantic relationships were chosen from a larger pool of 262 dyads to participate in an experimental study, with one partner serving as a target and the other as a confederate. Data from two separate conversations were judged by a team of coders. Between the two conversations, the dyad was separated and confederates were asked to increase or decrease their nonverbal involvement in the second conversation. Preoccupieds and Secures conveyed more trust/receptivity, eye gaze, facial pleasantness, vocal pleasantness, general interest, and attention than Dismissing and Fearful Avoidants. Preoccupieds were judged as the most domineering and Fearful Avoidants sat furthest from their partners and displayed the least fluency and longest response latencies. Preoccupieds and Fearful Avoidants were the most vocally anxious. These findings are interpreted in light of the dimensions underlying attachment styles and the Attachment Theory principle that communication reinforces mental models of self and others. Results from a general adaptation measure indicated that targets reciprocated in the increase-immediacy condition and compensated in the decrease-immediacy condition. This pattern was strongest for Preoccupieds and weakest for Secures and Fearful Avoidants. However, specific behavioral changes cut across all four attachment styles, indicating that people respond to involvement change similarly, despite differences in intimacy orientations. Targets in the increase-immediacy condition exhibited more affection, more pleasantness, less anxiety, and more fluency in response to their partners' behavior change. Behavioral measures showed a mix of reciprocity and compensation for targets in the decrease-immediacy condition. Results also demonstrated a pull toward reciprocity over time. These results are interpreted in light of Interaction Adaptation Theory, Expectancy Violations Theory, and the Bidimensional Model of Distancing, with results least supportive of the latter theory.