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Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2003;7(1):20-40.

The existential function of close relationships: introducing death into the science of love.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. mikulm@mail.biu.ac.il

Abstract

Originally, terror management theory proposed two psychological mechanisms in dealing with the terror of death awareness-cultural worldview validation and self-esteem enhancement. In this article, we would like to promote the idea of close relationships as an additional death-anxiety buffering mechanism and review a growing body of empirical data that support this contention. Based on a comprehensive analysis of the sociocultural and personal functions of close relationships, we formulate two basic hypotheses that have received empirical support in a series of experimental studies. First, death reminders heighten the motivation to form and maintain close relationships. Second, the maintenance of close relationships provides a symbolic shield against the terror of death, whereas the breaking of close relationships results in an upsurge of death awareness. In addition, we present empirical evidence supporting the possibility that close relationships function as a related yet separate mechanism from the self-esteem and cultural worldview defenses.

PMID:
12584055
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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