Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Meghan Axman, Theresa DiDonato, Ph.D., Rachel L. Grover, Ph.D., Cara Jacobson, Ph.D.

Examination of Moderators of Excessive Reassurance-Seeking and Relationship Satisfaction in Romantic Relationships

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Abstract:

Excessive reassurance-seeking (ERS) is the tendency for individuals to seek affirmation that they are lovable, worthy, and valued regardless of whether such assurance has already been provided (Joiner, Metalsky, Katz, & Beach, 1999). Individuals with depression are more likely to doubt the reassurances received by their partners and are more likely to engage in ERS ( Coyne 1976a; Coyne, 1976b; Joiner & Metalsky, 1995). Excessive reassurance-seeking elicits negative reactions from partners, such as frustration, less willingness to interact, negative partner appraisal, and lower relationship satisfaction (Benazon, 2000; Joiner et al., 1999; Lemay & Cannon, 2012). It also has the tendency to exacerbate depression in both the depressed partner and the non-depressed partner ( Coyne, 1976a; Coyne, 1976b; Hammen, 1991; Potthoff et al., 1995).

Literature suggests that the aforementioned negative correlates of ERS undermine relationship satisfaction; however, despite this, the inverse relation between ERS and relationship satisfaction specifically has been inconsistent (e.g., Benazon, 2000; Katz & Beach, 1997; Shaver at al., 2005; Stewart & Harkness, 2015; Starr & Davila, 2008). A study of moderators may be able to clarify this relation, which is important to examine given that depressed individuals already face significant interpersonal/relational distress and that relationship satisfaction is a strong predictor of physical and mental health and well-being (e.g., Diener et al., 2000; Robles & Kiecolt-Glaser, 2003; Whisman, 2007). Partner and relationship variables (i.e., mate value, commitment, intimacy, and passion) will be examined as potential moderators of the relation between ERS and relationship satisfaction. These constructs have, in previous studies, demonstrated a buffering effect in the face of aversive responses from others, such as rejection, and from relational stress and overall stress (Amstutz & Kaplan, 1987; Arriaga, Slaughterbeck, Capezza, & Hmurovic, 2007; Ditzen, Hoppmann, & Klumb, 2008).

Thus, it is possible that they may also serve as a buffer against lower relationship satisfaction when ERS is occurring. This research may provide clinicians with a deeper understanding of what relationship characteristics may strengthen or weaken the link between ERS and relationship satisfaction and may further help clinicians identify couples that are more at risk of relationship dissatisfaction. One-hundred individuals currently involved in romantic relationships of at least three months will be recruited to participate in this study via Amazon Mechanical Turk Two recruitment periods will take place in order to ensure recruitment of individuals whose partners vary in depression; one recruitment period will require the participants’ partners to be currently diagnosed with or treated for depression and the other will not. The anticipated gender and racial demographics for participants recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk are as follows: 54% female and 46% male, 83% White, 5.2% African American or Black, 4.1% Hispanic or Latino, 5.9% Asian or Asian American, and 1.3% Native American or other (Shapiro, Chandler, & Mueller, 2013).