Dating couples' attachment styles and patterns of cortisol reactivity and recovery in response to a relationship conflict

Sally I. Powers, Paula R. Pietromonaco, Meredith Gunlicks, Aline Sayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigated theoretically predicted links between attachment style and a physiological indicator of stress, salivary cortisol levels, in 124 heterosexual dating couples. Cortisol was assessed at 7 points before and after an experimental conflict negotiation task, creating a trajectory of stress reactivity and recovery for each participant. Growth modeling of cortisol data tested hypotheses that (a) insecurely attached individuals show patterns of greater physiological stress reactions to interpersonal conflict than do securely attached individuals and (b) people with insecurely attached partners show patterns of greater stress in reaction to relationship conflict than those with securely attached partners. Hypothesis 1 was supported, but men and women differed in the type of insecure attachment that predicted stress trajectories. Hypothesis 2 was supported for men, but not for women. The discussion emphasizes the role of gender role norms and partner characteristics in understanding connections between adult attachment and patterns of cortisol responses to interpersonal stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-628
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume90
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2006

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