Attachment Anxiety and Condom Use: the Moderating Influence of Rejection-Salience
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The purpose of this research was to examine how attachment anxiety and rejection-salience interacted to influence condom use intentions and beliefs. I manipulated rejection-salience specific to a sexual encounter (Study 1) and rejection-salience in general (Studies 2 and 3). I hypothesized that among women who were high in anxiety, those in the rejection-salient condition would report riskier sexual tendencies related to condom use compared to those in the control condition. I did not expect rejection-salience to influence the sexual tendencies of women who were low in anxiety. In Study 1, I manipulated potential partner rejection and found that attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance, and rejection-salience interacted to influence intentions to engage in unprotected sex. As expected, among women who were high in anxiety and low in avoidance, those in the rejection condition reported stronger intentions to have unprotected sex than those in the control condition. Unexpectedly, the same was true for women who were low in anxiety and high in avoidance. In Study 2, I manipulated general rejection-salience and asked women to indicate how many weeks into a relationship would be appropriate before switching from having protected to unprotected sex. Consistent with the results of Study 1, among women who were high in anxiety, those in the rejection-salience condition reported less time before switching compared to those in the control condition, demonstrating more risky sexual tendencies. In Study 3, I manipulated general rejection-salience and asked women to report how many weeks into a relationship unprotected intercourse should occur. Inconsistent with my predictions, as well as from the results of Studies 1 and 2, among women who were high in anxiety and low in avoidance, those in the rejection-salience condition reported that unprotected sex belonged later in a relationship timeline compared to those in the control condition. Study 4 explored how the exposure to positive relationship thoughts may act to buffer the influence of rejection-salience on risky sexual tendencies among highly anxious women. Some preliminary support for this hypothesis was found. Future research directions and implications for the literature on condom use and for sexual health promotion are discussed.