Differential Nature of Cross-Sex Friendships as a Function of Romantic Status University of Texas at San Antonio Psycholog...
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Differential Nature of Cross Sex Friendships as a Function of Romantic Status


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Differential Nature of Cross Sex Friendships as a Function of Romantic Status

  1. 1. Differential Nature of Cross-Sex Friendships as a Function of Romantic Status University of Texas at San Antonio Psychology Department . Jarryd T. Willis B.A. & Robert W. Fuhrman Ph.D. ABSTRACT A meta-analytic (N = 700) investigation compared attachment styles of romantically involved and single college-aged participants (396 females) across four relationship types: principal caregiver, romantic partner, cross-sex friend, and same-sex friend. (1) We found that romantically involved individuals rated their attachment anxiety as highest for romantic partners, whereas for single individuals it was their cross-sex friend. (2) In terms of gender, single males indicated more avoidance of their same-sex friend, while for females it was their cross-sex friend; in short, their ‘male friend’. However, both single males and females rated their attachment anxiety as highest for the cross-sex friend. METHODS In two databases combined for meta-analysis, seven hundred students (ages 18-51) selected through the participant pool at The University of Texas at San Antonio completed the Experiences in Close Relationships questionnaire (ECR; Brennan, Clark, and Shaver, 1998) and were allowed to only register for a single session for one of the relationships listed. In study one, participants completed the ECR for same-sex, cross-sex friends, and romantic partners. For study two, they completed both the ECR and the revised ECR-R (Fraley et al., 2000) for one of three pairs of counterbalanced relationships: Primary Caregiver - Romantic partner, Primary Caregiver - Cross-Sex Friend, and Primary Caregiver - Same-Sex Friend. STATISTICA was used to conduct 2(Gender or Romantic-Status) x 3(Relationship-type) univariate analyses of attachment anxiety and avoidance using the ECR. Measures Experiences in Close Relationships (Brennan et al., 1998) Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised (Fraley et al., 2000) RESULTS Anxiety There was a main effect of relationship-type, F (2,669)= 36.02, p <.001. Attachment anxiety was greatest for romantic partners ( M = 58.42), and greater for cross-sex friends (M = 50.94) than same-sex friends ( M = 42.36). After splitting romantic status, an interaction was found between relationship type and gender for romantically involved individuals, F (2,419)=3.63, p < .001. Females’ cross-sex friend anxiety ( M = 47.43) was greater while in relationships than that reported by males ( M = 38.14). Finally, for individuals not in a relationship, there was a main effect of friendship type, F (1,245)=13.52, p < .001. Anxiety for cross-sex ( M = 55.51) was significantly greater than that for same-sex friends ( M = 45.07). Avoidance There was a main effect of relationship-type, F (2,656)=10.6, p <.001. Attachment avoidance was lowest for romantic partners ( M = 40.2), and did not differ between cross-sex friends ( M = 47.28) and same-sex friends ( M = 44.73). There was an interaction between gender and relationship type, F (1,656)= 32.29, p = .024. Both males and females were most avoidant of their ‘male friend’. Males were significantly more avoidant of males ( M = 54.14) than of their female friends ( M = 47.62) or romantic partners ( M = 43.68). Females were significantly more avoidant of other males ( M = 47) than of their female friends ( M = 40.5) or romantic partners ( M = 37.96). Caregiver and Cross-sex friend Incongruence Caregiver attachment was compared to attachment to other figures using a 2 (ECR-R attachment subscales) x 2 (gender) mixed analysis of variance, with the database split on relationship type and romantic status. No effects were found for gender. An analysis of the caregiver with romantic partners found a significant difference in attachment anxiety, F (1, 87) = 7.35,  2 = .08, p = .008. Anxiety for the romantic partner ( M = 46.01) was greater than it was for the caregiver ( M = 39.36). Attachment anxiety did not differ for cross-sex friends and caregivers within romantically involved individuals; however, it DID differ within single individuals, F (1, 36) = 7.25,  2 = .17, p = .01. Single individuals were much more preoccupied with their cross-sex friends ( M = 53.74) than their caregivers ( M = 42.38). Similar results were found for attachment avoidance. Once again, an analysis of the caregiver with romantic partners found a significant difference in attachment avoidance, F (1, 79) = 17.16,  2 = .18, p <.001. Avoidance for the romantic partner ( M = 39.78) was less than it was for the principal caregiver ( M = 50.88). Attachment avoidance did not differ between cross-sex friends and caregivers for individuals in a relationship, but it did for single individuals, F (1, 32) = 4.55,  2 = .124, p < .041. Cross-sex friend avoidance ratings of single individuals ( M =46.69) were far less than ratings for their principal caregiver ( M =55.73). <ul><li>DISCUSSION </li></ul><ul><li>This study showed that romantic-status predicts attachment differences for friendships, and replicated this finding with both the ECR and ECR-R (Kirkpatrick and Hazan, 1994). In general, attachment anxiety was always greatest for romantic partners, less so for cross-sex friends, and least for same-sex friends (see Figure 3). As expected based on previous research (Eastwick & Finkel, 2008; Fraley & Davis, 1997; Fuhrman et al., 2009), and regardless of gender, single individuals indicated significantly greater attachment anxiety for their cross-sex friend than for their same-sex friend. </li></ul><ul><li>Gender, however, had significant effects on attachment avoidance. Males were significantly more avoidant of their same-sex friends than females, regardless of their romantic status (see Figure 3). Males were also more avoidant of their same-sex friend than cross-sex friend or romantic partner. Both genders were least avoidant of their romantic partners; moreover, romantic partner and cross-sex friend avoidance was far less than that for principal caregivers. </li></ul><ul><li>The patterns of our results are consistent with the theoretical framework of Mikulincer and Shaver (2007) that suggests that the anxiety system is different from the avoidance system . This study found that no gender differences were found for attachment anxiety, but significant gender differences were found for avoidance. </li></ul><ul><li>- Anxiety was always highest for romantic partners and was affected by romantic status. There was an unmistakable spike in cross-sex friend anxiety in the absence of a romantic relationship which was not present for individuals in a relationship (Figure 1 & 2). </li></ul><ul><li>- Avoidance was always lowest for romantic partners and interacted with gender. While males’ and females’ avoidance scores were equal for cross-sex friends, males were significantly more avoidant of their same-sex friends. </li></ul><ul><li>It can also be drawn from this data that the attachment to one person is not isolated from attachment to others . - For single individuals, both dimensions (anxiety and avoidance) of cross-sex friend attachment differed from the caregiver. - For individuals in a romantic relationship, both dimensions of their cross-sex friend attachment were similar to their caregiver attachment, and instead , it was both dimensions of their romantic partner attachment that differed from their caregiver attachment. - Preliminary data from a follow-up study has found that single lesbian and gay individuals have a spike in same-sex friend attachment anxiety which is greater than that for their cross-sex friend, and which also differs from their caregiver attachment anxiety. </li></ul><ul><li>The most important dynamic to capture is that, by default, we have more anxious-preoccupation with romantic partners. - In the absence of a romantic partner, however, our attachment anxiety system has a preferred alternative . - As research by Lisa Diamond (2000) has shown, we tend to develop more “ passionate friendships” with our cross-sex friends when we are single. </li></ul>Presented at 2011 SPSP Conference REFERENCES Brennan, K. A., Clark, C. L., & Shaver, P. R. (1998). Self-report measurement of adult attachment: An integrative overview. In J. A. Simpson & W. S. Rholes (Eds.), Attachment theory and close relationships (pp. 46–76). New York: Guilford Press. Diamond, L. (2000). Passionate Friendships Among Adolescent Sexual-Minority Women. Journal of Research on Adolescence , 10(2), 191-209. Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2008). The attachment system in fledgling relationships: An activation role for attachment anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 95 , 628-647. Fraley, C. & Davis, K. (1997) Attachment formation and transfer in young adults’ close friendships and romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 4 , 131-144. Fraley, R. C., Waller, N. G., & Brennan, K. A. (2000). An item-response theory analysis of self-report measures of adult attachment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 78, 350-365. Fuhrman, R. W., Flannagan, D., & Matamoros, M. (2009). Behavior Expectations in Cross-Sex Friendships, Same-Sex Friendships, and Romantic Relationships. Personal Relationships, 16 , 575-596. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P.R. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52 , 511-524. Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2010). Attached. The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find – And Keep – Love. New York, New York: Penguin Group. Main, M. & Goldwyn, R. (1984). Adult Attachment Scoring and Classification System. Unpublished manuscript, University of California at Berkeley. Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2007). Attachment patterns in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. New York: Guilford Press. Department of Psychology Department of Psychology INTRODUCTION Attachment Theory is one of the most highly integrative frameworks for how people come to think, feel, and behave within interpersonal relationships. Individuals’ attachments can be understood in terms of the dimensions of Anxiety and Avoidance (Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2000). Anxious individuals desire closeness and are comfortable with intimacy, whereas avoidant individuals tend to be uncomfortable and distance themselves when things get too close (Levine & Heller, 2010). Anxious (preoccupied) attached individuals tend to be sensitive to any threat-related cues, which activates their attachment system and leaves them preoccupied with an attachment relationship until felt security has been restored (Levine & Heller, 2010). For children, this may be reestablishing contact with or gaining the attention of their principal caregiver; for adults, this may be receiving a reassuring phone call or text message from the attachment figure whom one is preoccupied with. This preoccupation, however, may be comprised of protective factors separate from its risk factors. Avoidant attached individuals value self-sufficiency (which they mistake as independence) over intimacy and closeness, which they may see as threatening (Levine & Heller, 2010). They are less trusting of attachment figures, and tend to defensively push others away when they sense the attachment bond is growing too close, intimate, or emotionally disclosive. For example, an avoidant spouse may always find reasons to stay late, sleep in separate beds while on vacation, or reduce discretionary time that could be spent intimately with their partner. We investigated the following hypotheses for the purpose of assessing the influence of romantic-status and gender on relationship specific difference in attachment: (1) Recent research suggests the attachment anxiety that underlies partner-specific preoccupation (PSP) is a normative, rather than maladaptive, experience associated with growth promoting functions in cross-sex friendships and early romantic relationships (Eastwick & Finkel, 2008). Thus, we hypothesized greater attachment anxiety for romantic partners than other attachment figures. (2) Kirkpatrick and Hazan (1994) found that individuals’ romantic-status predicted their attachment style. Fraley and Davis (1997) found that, for individuals whose romantic status was single, attachment anxiety correlated with a strong sexual desire for their cross-sex friend. Therefore, we expected greater cross-sex friend anxiety for single individuals than for those in a romantic relationship. (3) Individuals’ romantic-status was found to predict whether the behavioral expectations of their cross-sex friendship exceeds or equals that of their same-sex friendship (Fuhrman, Flannagan, & Matamoros, 2009). Thus, we predicted that cross-sex friend anxiety would be greater than same-sex friend anxiety for single individuals. (4) Main and Goldwyn (1984) used adults’ recollections of early caregiver relationships to divide them into attachment categories. Given our romantic status predictions, we expected single adults’ cross-sex friend attachment to differ from their caregiver attachment.