Adult Attachment and Coping Processes: the predictive effect of attachment style on behavioural and cognitive coping responses to a partner's infidelity

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Poirier, Camille Jeanette (2014)

This study investigated whether attachment-related anxiety and attachment-related avoidance are significant predictors of coping strategies in relation to memories of coping with partner infidelity. Four hundred and fifteen participants who had the experience of a romantic partner engaging in infidelity completed questionnaires measuring their attachment style and their use of eight cognitive and behavioural coping strategies. Of the total participants, 231 who had completed all of the study’s measures and met the research inclusion criteria were included within the preliminary and main analyses. The data was analysed using a series of separate hierarchical multiple linear regressions. Individuals with high attachment avoidance scores engaged in less seeking social support and confrontive strategies, and in more distancing strategies to cope with partner infidelity. Alternatively, individuals with high attachment anxiety engaged in more accepting responsibility and escape avoidance strategies, and less positive reappraisal strategies to cope with partner infidelity. These findings advocate potential therapeutic interventions for individuals coping with partner infidelity, including helping clients understand the ineffective coping mechanisms that arise from their attachment patterns and supporting them in challenging their cognitions and adopting more effective methods of coping with partner infidelity. Although the study was able to predict the types of coping strategies insecurely attached individuals are likely to use when coping with a partner's infidelity, it did not directly focus on the impact this had on participants’ psychological distress. Future research using mediator analyses could offer interesting information into the complex relationship between attachment, coping, and psychological distress, and shed light on whether specific strategies may increase an individual’s vulnerability of developing mental health difficulties in response to a partner’s infidelity.
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