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Pers Relatsh. 2011 Jun;18(2):285-301.

Attachment Anxiety, Verbal Immediacy, and Blood Pressure: Results from a Laboratory-Analogue Study Following Marital Separation.

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University of Arizona.


Marital separation and divorce increase risk for all-cause morbidity and mortality. Using a laboratory analogue paradigm, the present study examined attachment anxiety, language use, and blood pressure (BP) reactivity among 119 (n = 43 men, 76 women) recently separated adults who were asked to mentally reflect on their relationship history and separation experience. We created a language use composite of verbal immediacy from participants' stream-of-consciousness recordings about their separation experience as a behavioral index of attachment-related hyperactivation. Verbal immediacy moderated the association between attachment anxiety and BP at the beginning of a divorce-specific activation task. Participants reporting high attachment anxiety who discussed their separation in a first-person, present-oriented and highly engaged manner evidenced the highest levels of BP at the start of the divorce-specific task. Results provide a deeper understanding of the association between marital dissolution and health and suggest that verbal immediacy may be a useful behavioral index of hyperactivating coping strategies.

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