Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Psychology

Supervisor

Dr. David Dozois

Abstract

Excessive reassurance seeking (ERS), defined as the stable tendency to excessively and persistently seek assurances from others, has recently emerged as a possible risk factor for interpersonal distress and depression. An important limitation in the ERS literature concerns the mechanism(s) by which individuals engage in ERS. The current daily diary study was among the first to examine the daily relationships among ERS, mood, and relationship quality in romantic couples, and explore how these associations were moderated by individual and partner attachment styles. Method: A sample of 110 heterosexual couples completed measures of attachment, ERS, symptoms of depression, and relationship quality. Results: In line with prior research, an anxious attachment style was associated with higher daily ERS, and an avoidant attachment style with lower daily ERS. Lower levels of trust were also associated with greater daily ERS, whereas higher relationship quality was related to greater daily ERS in men, and lower daily ERS in women. This study extended the literature by demonstrating that for women with an anxious attachment style, and men with an avoidant attachment style, ERS was related to lower next day trust. In contrast, the partners of men with an avoidant attachment style, who also engaged in ERS, reported higher levels of next day trust. This study was also the first to examine how individual attachment styles influenced the perception of, and reactions to, ERS. Women with an anxious attachment style liked when their male partners engaged in ERS, as illustrated by higher levels of reported trust. Conclusion: These results support the idea that attachment styles play an important role in determining whether or not ERS leads to negative interpersonal consequences. They also suggest that it is not the behaviour or frequency of ERS per se that is associated with negative relational outcomes; rather, it is the combination of relationship insecurities and ERS that leads to negative social consequences. The ERS model may need to be re-conceptualized to account for the notion that there may be both secure and insecure forms of reassurance seeking, with the insecure leading to negative psychological or interpersonal outcomes.


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