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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1996 Nov;71(5):899-914.

Conflict in close relationships: an attachment perspective.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843-4235, USA.


This study investigated how perceptions of current dating partners and relationships change after people with different attachment orientations attempt to resolve a problem in their relationship. Dating couples were videotaped while they tried to resolve either a major or a minor problem. Confirming predictions from attachment theory, men and women who had a more ambivalent orientation perceived their partner and relationship in relatively less positive terms after discussing a major problem. Observer ratings revealed that more ambivalent women who tried to resolve a major problem displayed particularly strong stress and anxiety and engaged in more negative behaviors. Conversely, men with a more avoidant orientation were rated as less warm and supportive, especially if they discussed a major problem. These results are discussed in terms of how highly ambivalent and highly avoidant people differentially perceive and respond to distressing events.

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