The Influence of Romantic Attachment Styles and Imagined Partner Rejection on Female Body Image
Refling, Erica Julie
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The purpose of this research was to examine how attachment style and rejection interact to influence female body image. I hypothesized that women who were high in attachment anxiety would report more negative self-evaluations than women who were low in attachment anxiety. I also hypothesized that this main effect would be qualified by a significant interaction between attachment anxiety and rejection, such that highly anxious women who were rejected would report even more negative self-evaluations than highly anxious women who were not rejected. In Study One, I found that higher levels of attachment anxiety were associated with lower self-evaluations but, contrary to expectations, attachment avoidance and rejection condition interacted to influence self-evaluations. At low levels of avoidance, women in the rejection condition reported significantly higher levels of appearance state self-esteem, body esteem, and trait self-esteem than women in the non-rejection condition. However, at high levels of avoidance, women in the rejection condition reported lower levels of these three constructs than women in the non-rejection condition, although this finding was statistically significant only for appearance state self-esteem. In Study Two, my goal was to replicate and extend these unexpected findings by examining perceived partner regard and public self-awareness as potential mediators of the interaction between avoidance and rejection on self-evaluations. Although a main effect of attachment anxiety was revealed for each of the dependent measures, contrary to Study One and my hypotheses, attachment avoidance and rejection did not interact to influence any of the self-evaluation measures and, thus, no mediational analyses were performed. Importantly, I discovered that even though participants’ mean ratings of their body esteem did not change following the rejection manipulation, the degree to which highly anxious women in the rejection condition associated how they felt about their appearance and how they thought their partner perceived them was significantly stronger than that of highly anxious women in the non-rejection condition and low anxious women in either condition. Explanations for the findings found in Study One and Study Two are discussed and the implications of these findings for future research and promoting a positive body image are considered.