Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Balancing the need to protect the self against needs to form and strengthen close relationships
by Beck, Lindsey Ashton, Ph.D., Yale University, 2010, 130; 3415353
Abstract (Summary)

Previous work indicates that the need to form and maintain close relationships is a central part of human nature, yet surprisingly little research has examined how people initiate and develop these relationships. The present work examines how people balance needs to form and strengthen close relationships against needs to protect the self from rejection during relationship initiation. I first provide normative evidence that people offer more support than they request from relationship partners, particularly during the early phases of relationships when confidence in the partner's care and regard has not yet been established. I suggest that the observed asymmetry between offering and seeking support is part of people's normative risk regulation processes as close relationships form and strengthen. Because previous research indicates that some individuals may find it especially challenging to balance needs for interpersonal closeness with needs for self-protection, I next examine attachment differences in close relationship initiation and maintenance, with a particular emphasis on attachment avoidance (discomfort with intimacy and closeness). Findings suggest that people's personality may influence the initiation and trajectory of their relationships by impacting the social situations they choose to enter or avoid, as well as their emotional reactions once in those situations. Chronically avoidant individuals evaded situations that would provide information about others' care and regard, perhaps at the expense of forming close relationships. An additional study revealed that if avoidant people had to enter these situations, they responded to social rejection with hostility, which may help explain why they are reluctant to enter such situations in the first place. In contrast, chronically anxious individuals (those who worry about others' responsiveness) reacted with fear to social acceptance, which may preclude them from taking further steps to forming relationships. My final studies investigate another step that avoidant people may take to keep relationship partners at a distance. Results revealed that avoidant individuals defensively perceived benefits received to have been less voluntarily given, which may justify not depending upon their partner. I conclude by putting my research on balancing needs for self-protection against needs for relationship promotion in the context of a developing comprehensive model of relationship initiation which highlights three interpersonal processes: self-protection, strategic self-presentation, and evaluation of partners.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Clark, Margaret S.
Commitee:
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-B 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Social psychology, Personality psychology
Keywords: Attachment styles, Close relationships, Rejection
Publication Number: 3415353
ISBN: 9781124091662
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