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Use Of Attachment Terms In Descriptions Of Partners As A Possible Marker Of Romantic Attachment Formation

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Abstract

Mental representations of others in our world are presumed to be different in content and function throughout the process of relationship formation. The present research investigates the extent to which qualitative descriptions of romantic partner mental representations serve as markers of normative adult attachment formation. We conducted a multi-part study employing three methods-a brief online survey, an in-person interview, and an experimental manipulation. We collected data from 137 young adults in romantic relationships to compare partner versus familiar other mental representation descriptions between stressful versus neutral conditions. We hypothesized that mental representations of romantic partners-especially those who were also attachment figures-would be comprised of lengthier descriptions containing more attachmentlanguage than would those of familiar others. Furthermore, we predicted that this association would be more pronounced for participants primed with an upsetting autobiographical memory-those who might also demonstrate a recovery effect after describing their partners but not familiar others. Results showed greater use of attachment language for partner than familiar other and higher word count differential (between partner and familiar other) for those were attached to their partner. Additionally, we observed a significant increase in positive affect for those primed with an upsetting autobiographical memory, after thinking about their partners. A comprehensive linear model was fit using these variables and relationship length, to predict attachment status. The results underscore the importance of examining cognitive awareness of salient partner mental representations for understanding adult attachment formation. Keywords: adult attachment, mental representations, affect regulation

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2015-08-17

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adult attachment; mental representations; affect regulation

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Hazan,Cynthia

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Anderson,Adam K.
Spreng,Robert Nathan

Degree Discipline

Developmental Psychology

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M.A., Developmental Psychology

Degree Level

Master of Arts

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Government Document

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dissertation or thesis

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