Attachment Insecurity and Perceived Partner Suffering as Predictors of Personal Distress.

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Abstract or Description

This study examined the extent to which perceptions of partner suffering mediate the association between attachment insecurity (anxiety and avoidance) and personal distress among spouses of older adults with osteoarthritis. Fifty-three spouses watched two videos of targets (their partner and an opposite sex stranger) perform a pain-eliciting household task, and spouses were asked to rate their own distress and perceptions of the targets' pain. Spouses also completed self-report measures of trait attachment. Results revealed that attachment anxiety was associated with greater personal distress in reaction to the partner's suffering, and heightened perceptions of partner pain mediated this association. Avoidant attachment was associated with less distress in reaction to the partner's suffering, but not with less perceived pain. The results of this study identify an important mechanism linking attachment insecurity and heightened distress responses when observing the suffering of a significant other.


Published In

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 6, 1143-1147.