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Coping with rejection concerns in romantic relationships: An experimental investigation of social anxiety and risk regulation

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Abstract

Social anxiety tends to be examined from an intrapersonal perspective. Only recently have researchers started to explore social anxiety in the context of close relationships. In the current study, we investigated whether people with greater social anxiety respond defensively when the threat of being rejected by one's romantic partner becomes salient. Confronted with possible rejection, we hypothesized that people with greater social anxiety would devalue their partners to minimize the impact of the rejection. Fifty one couples participated in a laboratory interaction with one member assigned to a rejection condition —led to believe that their partner was listing excessive negative characteristics about them; the other member was assigned to a neutral condition in which they received an innocuous filler task. Results revealed a positive association between social anxiety and rejection concerns that could not be attributed to depressive symptoms, rejection sensitivity, attachment styles, or trust. People with greater social anxiety coped with these concerns by devaluing romantic partners following the rejection condition; in the neutral condition, they adopted an overly positive/enhanced perception of partners. Our findings illustrate the defensive, risk management strategies used by people with greater social anxiety in aversive relational contexts.

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... Given this seeming contradiction, research has begun to explore the contextual factors that influence the expression of behaviors characterized by avoidant versus dependent attachment among socially anxious individuals. Drawing on the Risk Regulation Model (RRM; Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 2000;Murray, Holmes, & Collins, 2006), Afram and Kashdan (2015) suggest that whether an individual feels accepted or rejected by their partner influences whether they engage in behavior characteristic of avoidant versus dependent attachment. ...
... Processes associated with the modulation of relationship dependence are termed risk regulation processes (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). Risk regulation processes that reduce dependence can be referred to as withdrawal-focused risk regulation processes. ...
... Risk regulation processes that reduce dependence can be referred to as withdrawal-focused risk regulation processes. These include reducing selfdisclosure, devaluing the partner or the relationship, refraining from seeking support from their partners, or acting in a hostile or angry manner (Afram & Kashdan, 2015;Murray et al., 2006). Risk regulation processes that increase dependence can be referred to as approach-focused risk regulation processes, which include increasing intimacy or selfhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102281 ...
Article
Individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) demonstrate impaired functioning in intimate relationships, yet little is known about how socially anxious individuals respond to perceived intimate partner rejection. In the present study, individuals with SAD (n = 30) and healthy controls (HCs; n = 33) who were involved in current intimate relationships completed daily diaries each evening for 14 days. Daily diaries assessed the extent to which participants experienced feelings of rejection in their intimate relationships, as well as the extent to which they responded to feelings of rejection by using behaviors characterized by withdrawal (“withdrawal” processes) versus efforts to reaffiliate with their partners (“approach” processes). Results revealed that overall, individuals with SAD exhibited greater use of withdrawal-focused processes, whereas HC participants exhibited greater use of approach-focused processes. However, on days following intimate partner rejection, only individuals with SAD restricted their use of withdrawal-focused processes. These findings provide insight into the nature of rejection concerns and responses to rejection among individuals with SAD as compared with HC participants.
... Further, social anxiety severity has been shown to be predictive of romantic relationship status (e.g., Schneier et al., 1994;Wittchen, Fuetsch, Sonntag, Mueller, & Liebowitz, 2000). Yet there is limited research investigating social anxiety and the detrimental impacts on intimate relationships, particularly in romantic relationships (Afram & Kashdan, 2015;Alden & Taylor, 2004). Alden and Taylor (2004) highlighted in their review that more research was needed into the specific interpersonal behaviours demonstrated by those with high social anxiety symptoms, and how these behaviours may influence the development of romantic relationships. ...
... For example, socially anxious people rate their relationships as lower in emotional intimacy than non-anxious controls, indicating feelings of being neglected, lonely, and as though their partner does not listen or understand (Wenzel, 2002). Individuals with social anxiety are also more likely to be critical of partners during negative interactions (Wenzel, Graff-Dolezal, Macho, & Brendle, 2005), experience reduced closeness to partners when mutual pain/distress is expressed (Kashdan, Volkmann, Breen, & Han, 2007), and experience greater rejection concern following a rejection induction with their partner (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). Further, individuals with social anxiety report lower relationship satisfaction in their intimate relationships (Schneier et al., 1994;Sparrevohn & Rapee, 2009). ...
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Research investigating social anxiety and the impacts on romantic relationships remains scarce. An online questionnaire examining romantic relationship status, social anxiety and depression symptomology, relationship satisfaction, and several relationship processes was completed by 444 adults. Individuals with higher social anxiety were less likely to be in romantic relationships. For the 188 adults in our sample in current relationships, relationship satisfaction was not influenced by social anxiety when controlling for depression. Although it was proposed that self-disclosure, social support, trust, and conflict initiation might influence romantic relationship satisfaction, none of these mechanisms interacted with social anxiety to explain additional variance in relationship satisfaction. These findings indicate that depression symptomology may be a treatment target for socially anxious individuals wishing to improve romantic relationship satisfaction.
... Yet the situational factors that govern the momentary experience and expression of social anxiety in the real world remain incompletely understood. To date, most of what it known is based on either retrospective report or acute laboratory challenges (Alden and Wallace, 1995;Beck et al., 2006;Buote et al., 2007;Afram and Kashdan, 2015;Crişan et al., 2016). ...
... On average, individuals with higher levels of social anxiety spent significantly less time in the company of close companions (r = −0.16, p = 0.01) and showed a trend to spend more time alone (r = 0.13, p = 0.06), consistent with prior work (Alden and Taylor, 2004; Afram and Kashdan, 2015). A mediation analysis suggested that this reflects reduced access to close companions. ...
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Background Social anxiety lies on a continuum, and young adults with elevated symptoms are at risk for developing a range of psychiatric disorders. Yet relatively little is known about the factors that govern the hour-by-hour experience and expression of social anxiety in the real world. Methods Here we used smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to intensively sample emotional experience across different social contexts in the daily lives of 228 young adults selectively recruited to represent a broad spectrum of social anxiety symptoms. Results Leveraging data from over 11 000 real-world assessments, our results highlight the central role of close friends, family members, and romantic partners. The presence of such close companions was associated with enhanced mood, yet socially anxious individuals had fewer confidants and spent less time with the close companions that they do have. Although higher levels of social anxiety were associated with a general worsening of mood, socially anxious individuals appear to derive larger benefits – lower levels of negative affect, anxiety, and depression – from their close companions. In contrast, variation in social anxiety was unrelated to the amount of time spent with strangers, co-workers, and acquaintances; and we uncovered no evidence of emotional hypersensitivity to these less-familiar individuals. Conclusions These findings provide a framework for understanding the deleterious consequences of social anxiety in emerging adulthood and set the stage for developing improved intervention strategies.
... Yet the situational factors that govern the momentary experience and expression of social anxiety in the real world remain incompletely understood. To date, most of what it known is based on either retrospective report or acute laboratory challenges (Alden and Wallace, 1995;Beck et al., 2006;Buote et al., 2007;Afram and Kashdan, 2015;Crişan et al., 2016). ...
... On average, individuals with higher levels of social anxiety spent significantly less time in the company of close companions (r = −0.16, p = 0.01) and showed a trend to spend more time alone (r = 0.13, p = 0.06), consistent with prior work ( Alden and Taylor, 2004;Afram and Kashdan, 2015). A mediation analysis suggested that this reflects reduced access to close companions. ...
Preprint
Social anxiety lies on a continuum, and young adults with elevated symptoms are at risk for developing a range of debilitating psychiatric disorders. Yet, relatively little is known about the factors that govern the momentary expression of social anxiety in daily life, close to clinically significant end-points. Here, we used smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment to intensively sample emotional experience across different social contexts in the daily lives of 228 young adults selectively recruited to represent a broad spectrum of social anxiety symptoms. Leveraging data from over 11,000 assessments, results highlight the vital role of close friends, family members, and romantic partners. Socially anxious individuals report smaller confidant networks and spend significantly less time with their close companions. As a consequence, they are less frequent beneficiaries of close companions’ mood-enhancing effects. Although higher levels of social anxiety are associated with a general reduction in the quality of momentary emotional experience, socially anxious individuals derived significantly larger benefits—lower levels of negative affect, anxiety, and depression—from the company of close companions. Collectively, these findings provide a novel framework for understanding the deleterious consequences of social anxiety and set the stage for developing improved intervention strategies.
... Fear of negative evaluation is the core feature of social anxiety and people with greater social anxiety, experience an exaggerated feeling of risk in social interactions (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). Social anxiety is positively associated with the amount of concern experienced by the threat of rejection (Kashdan et al., 2013). ...
... Much literature on social anxiety focuses on how the fear of negative evaluation impacts the way people with social anxiety relate to unfamiliar people (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). Considering that social anxious people evaluate social situations and interactions threatening, it is important that they cope with the stressful situations. ...
... Even when SA individual succeed in forming romantic relationships, these tend to be at high risk for impairment. Specifically, SA individuals tend to adopt avoidant and dependent relational styles (e.g., Davila & Beck, 2002), be more blaming of their partner (Wenzel, 2002), engage in negative or self-protective communication and in limited self-disclosure (e.g., Cuming & Rapee, 2010), and tend to devalue their partner when confronted with possible rejection (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). Consequently, they experience less intimacy (e.g., Sparrevohn & Rapee, 2009). ...
... Relatedly, mixed defensive responses in the management of relational risks (e.g., rejection; Murray et al., 2006) could serve as another possible mechanism explaining the reduced relationship satisfaction of partners' of SA individuals. For example, a recent experimental study showed that SA individuals tended to devalue their romantic partners when coping with rejection concerns, but to overvalue them in neutral situations (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). ...
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Despite the inherent interpersonal nature of social anxiety (SA), a surprisingly sparse literature addresses the interpersonal processes occurring within the committed romantic relationships of SA individuals. the current study tested the hypothesis that the relational phenomenon of perceived partner (un)responsiveness (PPR; Reis, Clark, & Holmes, 2004), mediates the association between SA and poor relationship satisfaction. We used recently-developed actor-partner-interdependence mediational models with data from a 35-day dyadic diary study of 80 committed couples. Social anxiety was found to be tied to poor relationship satisfaction in the daily lives of both persons with SA (actors) and their partners. For the actors, this negative association was fully mediated by the actor's perception of poor partner responsiveness. in contrast, for the partners, this negative association was not attributable to PPR. the results remained essentially unchanged even when controlling for comorbid depressive symptoms and for prior relationship satisfaction.
... Even when SA individual succeed in forming romantic relationships, these tend to be at high risk for impairment. Specifically, SA individuals tend to adopt avoidant and dependent relational styles (e.g., Davila & Beck, 2002), be more blaming of their partner (Wenzel, 2002), engage in negative or self-protective communication and in limited self-disclosure (e.g., Cuming & Rapee, 2010), and tend to devalue their partner when confronted with possible rejection (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). Consequently, they experience less intimacy (e.g., Sparrevohn & Rapee, 2009). ...
... Relatedly, mixed defensive responses in the management of relational risks (e.g., rejection; Murray et al., 2006) could serve as another possible mechanism explaining the reduced relationship satisfaction of partners' of SA individuals. For example, a recent experimental study showed that SA individuals tended to devalue their romantic partners when coping with rejection concerns, but to overvalue them in neutral situations (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the inherent interpersonal nature of social anxiety (SA), a surprisingly sparse literature addresses the interpersonal processes occurring within the committed romantic relationships of SA individuals. the current study tested the hypothesis that the relational phenomenon of perceived partner (un)responsiveness (PPr; reis, Clark, & holmes, 2004), mediates the association between SA and poor relationship satisfaction. We used recently-developed actor-partner-interdependence mediational models with data from a 35-day dyadic diary study of 80 committed couples. Social anxiety was found to be tied to poor relationship satisfaction in the daily lives of both persons with SA (actors) and their partners. For the actors, this negative association was fully mediated by the actor's perception of poor partner responsiveness. in contrast, for the partners, this negative association was not attributable to PPr. the results remained essentially unchanged even when controlling for comorbid depressive symptoms and for prior relationship satisfaction.
... Although the possibility of risk regulation systems operating in non-romantic relationships has previously been acknowledged (Murray et al., 2006), the application of such theory has nevertheless largely been limited to romantic relationships (e.g., Afram & Kashdan, 2015;Jaremka et al., 2011). As the formality of relationship initiation may be less important when partners are higher in responsiveness (i.e., a partner-based contingency), this suggests that there are parallels between the mechanisms that govern perceptions of regard in romantic relationships and those that operate in mentoring relationships. ...
Article
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A growing literature recognizes the benefits associated with mentorship. Less well understood, however, are the mechanisms that explain why informal mentoring relationships are more positively associated with protégé career outcomes than formal mentoring relationships. Using an experimental vignette method, we examine how the source of mentorship initiation (mentor-initiated vs. organization-initiated) influences protégés’ reflected appraisal of their mentoring relationships. Participants (N = 392) in mentor-initiated relationships anticipated mentors to be more genuinely interested in their development than protégés in organization-initiated relationships. Subsequent analyses demonstrated the source of mentorship initiation indirectly predicted mentoring expectations (i.e., anticipated vocational and psychosocial mentoring functions) through genuine interest. An important boundary condition for this finding, however, was that the source of mentorship initiation mattered more when there was uncertainty surrounding mentors’ abilities and intentions. That is, mentors described with high levels of interpersonal responsiveness were perceived as genuine regardless of how the relationship was initiated. Our results provide insight into the way that the initiation phase of mentoring relationships shapes initial perceptions and expectancies of a mentor.
... Similarly, the present results may suggest that within an established romantic relationship (i.e., mean length one year), socially anxious individuals become more dependent on romantic partners for social support. Likewise, one study found that socially anxious individuals tend to have enhanced perceptions of their romantic partners' value when immediate threats of rejection are not present (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). Therefore, it is possible that socially anxious individuals may seek to maximize their feelings of connectedness by either eliciting or perceiving higher degrees of partner support in romantic relationships. ...
Article
Rejection sensitive (RS) individuals are at greater risk for emotional maladjustment across the lifespan, with consistent links identified with depression and social anxiety. Yet little is known about interpersonal factors that may affect this association for late adolescents, especially with their romantic partners and close friends. The present study examined relationship qualities of support and negative interactions with romantic partners and friends as moderators of the link between RS and internalizing symptoms. Given the differences between male and female social relationships and experiences, these associations were expected to be further moderated by gender, with RS females in poorer quality relationships being at particular risk for internalizing symptoms. This short-term longitudinal investigation evaluated these associations concurrently and longitudinally to assess for changes in symptoms over time. A college sample of 384 late adolescents (217 females,167 males, mean age 18.78 years) completed self-report measures of rejection sensitivity, relationship quality (i.e., support and negative interactions with friends and romantic partners), social anxiety, and depression. A portion of this sample (n = 197, 130 females, 67 males, 51.3% retention) completed these same measures approximately eight weeks later. Results indicate that negative, rather than positive, relationship qualities appear to be most influential for RS and associated internalizing symptoms. Friendships also seem to be the interpersonal context most relevant for RS adolescents. Specifically, highly rejection sensitive (HRS) individuals with more negative friendship interactions had greater increases in depressive symptoms over time. When close friendships had few negative interactions, RS was not associated with increases in depression. Therefore, negative relational experiences with close friends appear to function as a risk factor for further development of depressive symptoms among HRS youth. Conversely, preliminary results for social anxiety suggest that HRS individuals experience greater increases in social anxiety symptoms in friendships with low negative interactions. Adolescents with friendships characterized by high levels of negative interactions may be likely to experience social anxiety regardless of RS. Additional preliminary results suggest that HRS females with highly negative friendship interactions are at greatest risk for depressive symptoms, whereas HRS males are at greatest risk for social anxiety symptoms at follow-up. Further research is needed to replicate and confirm these preliminary findings. Clinical implications for RS individuals may include reducing negative friendship interactions as a primary intervention target to decrease current symptoms or prevent further risk for increases in internalizing symptoms.
... Perhaps low SA women are more likely than men to offer therapeutic exposure experiences for their SA partners via various nurturing behaviours and expressions of empathy, including physical touch. We refer to this as a "Florence Nightingale Effect" wherein the low anxious partner engages in excessive nurturing, with a preference for being needed in a helper role; this would benefit the low SA partner as a high SA partner would be dependent on them, increasing the odds of relational security (Afram & Kashdan, 2015). While this dynamic may promote healthy attitudes toward touch, it is unclear whether these relationships are truly healthy, particularly for the low SA women involved. ...
Article
Physical touch is central to the emotional intimacy that separates romantic relationships from other social contexts. In this study of 256 adults (128 heterosexual couples, mean relationship length = 20.5 months), we examined whether individual differences in social anxiety influenced comfort with and avoidance of physical touch. Because of prior work on sex difference in touch use, touch comfort, and social anxiety symptoms and impairment, we explored sex-specific findings. We found evidence that women with greater social anxiety were less comfortable with touch and more avoidant of touch in same-sex friendships. Additionally, a woman’s social anxiety had a bigger effect on a man’s comfort with touch and avoidance of touch in the romantic relationship than a man’s social anxiety had on the woman’s endorsement of touch-related problems. These effects were uninfluenced by the length of romantic relationships. Touch is a neglected emotional experience that offers new insights into the difficulties of individuals suffering from social anxiety problems, and their romantic partners.
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Chapter
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the most common and impairing psychological disorders. To advance our understanding of SAD, several researchers have put forth explanatory models over the years, including one which we originally published almost two decades ago (Rapee & Heimberg, 1997), which delineated the processes by which socially anxious individuals are affected by their fear of evaluation in social situations. Our model, as revised in the 2010 edition of this text, is summarized and further updated based on recent research on the multiple processes involved in the maintenance of SAD.
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When women express hostility, the target is typically a significant other. Our efforts to account for this observation center on the role of rejection sensitivity - the disposition to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to rejection - in women's hostility. We have previously shown that dispositional anxious expectations about rejection by a significant other prompt women to readily perceive rejection and to react with hostility in situations that activate rejection expectations. These findings led us to propose that the hostility of women in such situations is a specific reaction to perceived rejection. Results from three studies support this proposition. Using a priming-pronunciation task paradigm, Study 1 revealed that rejection thoughts facilitated hostile thoughts to a greater extent in women high in rejection expectations (HRS) than in those low in rejection expectations (LRS). Chronic accessibility of hostile thoughts was unrelated to rejection expectations. Study 2 found that, following rejection by a potential dating partner, HRS women evaluated their prospective partners less positively than LRS women. Partner evaluations were unrelated to rejection expectations in a nonrejection control condition. Using a daily diary methodology, Study 3 showed that HRS women were more likely than LRS women to report a conflict with their romantic partners only when they had felt rejected on the previous day.
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Experiential avoidance (EA), the tendency to avoid internal, unwanted thoughts and feelings, is hypothesized to be a risk factor for social anxiety. Existing studies of experiential avoidance rely on trait measures with minimal contextual consideration. In two studies, we examined the association between experiential avoidance and anxiety within real-world social interactions. In the first study, we examined the effect of experiential avoidance on social anxiety in everyday life. For 2 weeks, 37 participants with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and 38 healthy controls provided reports of experiential avoidance and social anxiety symptoms during face-to-face social interactions. Results showed that momentary experiential avoidance was positively related to anxiety symptoms during social interactions and this effect was stronger among people with SAD. People low in EA showed greater sensitivity to the level of situational threat than high EA people. In the second study, we facilitated an initial encounter between strangers. Unlike Study 1, we experimentally created a social situation where there was either an opportunity for intimacy (self-disclosure conversation) or no such opportunity (small-talk conversation). Results showed that greater experiential avoidance during the self-disclosure conversation temporally preceded increases in social anxiety for the remainder of the interaction; no such effect was found in the small-talk conversation. Our findings provide insight into the association between experiential avoidance on social anxiety in laboratory and naturalistic settings, and demonstrate that the effect of EA depends upon level of social threat and opportunity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
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This study investigated 3 broad classes of individual-differences variables (job-search motives, competencies, and constraints) as predictors of job-search intensity among 292 unemployed job seekers. Also assessed was the relationship between job-search intensity and reemployment success in a longitudinal context. Results show significant relationships between the predictors employment commitment, financial hardship, job-search self-efficacy, and motivation control and the outcome job-search intensity. Support was not found for a relationship between perceived job-search constraints and job-search intensity. Motivation control was highlighted as the only lagged predictor of job-search intensity over time for those who were continuously unemployed. Job-search intensity predicted Time 2 reemployment status for the sample as a whole, but not reemployment quality for those who found jobs over the study's duration. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
This study is a prospective examination of possible interpersonal features of social anxiety that might predict increases in depressive symptoms. It was hypothesised that social anxiety would be associated with avoidance of expressing emotion, lack of assertion, and interpersonal dependency and that these dysfunctional interpersonal styles would predict depressive symptoms one year later while controlling for Time 1 depressive symptoms. One hundred and two undergraduates completed interview and self-report measures of these interpersonal styles in addition to measures of social anxiety and depressive symptoms. Results indicated that social anxiety was associated with all three interpersonal styles. However, only avoidance of expressing emotions predicted Time 2 depressive symptoms. Theoretical implications of these results are discussed.
Article
Research suggests that social anxiety is associated with a reduced approach orientation for positive social cues. In the current study we examined the effect of experimentally manipulating automatic approach action tendencies on the social behavior of individuals with elevated social anxiety symptoms. The experimental paradigm comprised a computerized Approach Avoidance Task (AAT) in which participants responded to pictures of faces conveying positive or neutral emotional expressions by pulling a joystick toward themselves (approach) or by moving it to the right (sideways control). Participants were randomly assigned to complete an AAT designed to increase approach tendencies for positive social cues by pulling these cues toward themselves on the majority of trials, or to a control condition in which there was no contingency between the arm movement direction and picture type. Following the manipulation, participants took part in a relationship-building task with a trained confederate. Results revealed that participants trained to approach positive stimuli displayed greater social approach behaviors during the social interaction and elicited more positive reactions from their partner compared to participants in the control group. These findings suggest that modifying automatic approach tendencies may facilitate engagement in the types of social approach behaviors that are important for relationship development.
Article
Issues concerning the influence of attachment characteristics on own and partner’s disclosure were addressed using a sample of 113 couples in medium–term dating relationships. Individual differences in attachment were assessed in terms of relationship anxiety and avoidance. Disposition to disclose was assessed using questionnaire measures of self–disclosure, relationship–focused disclosure, and the ability to elicit disclosure from the partner; in addition, structured diaries were used to assess aspects of disclosure (amount, intimacy, emotional tone, and satisfaction) in the context of couples’ everyday interactions. Couple–level analyses showed that avoidance strongly predicted dispositional measures of disclosure, whereas anxiety (particularly partner’s anxiety) was related to negative evaluations of everyday interactions. Interactive effects of attachment dimensions and gender were also obtained, highlighting the complexity of communication behavior. The results are discussed in terms of the goals and strategies associated with working models of attachment.
Article
Data collected from both members of a dyad provide abundant opportunities as well as data analytic challenges. The Actor–Partner Interdependence Model (APIM; Kashy & Kenny, 2000) was developed as a conceptual framework for collecting and analyzing dyadic data, primarily by stressing the importance of considering the interdependence that exists between dyad members. The goal of this paper is to detail how the APIM can be implemented in dyadic research, and how its effects can be estimated using hierarchical linear modeling, including PROC MIXED in SAS and HLM (version 5.04; Raudenbush, Bryk, Cheong, & Congdon, 2001). The paper describes the APIM and illustrates how the data set must be structured to use the data analytic methods proposed. It also presents the syntax needed to estimate the model, indicates how several types of interactions can be tested, and describes how the output can be interpreted.
Article
We tested the hypothesis that social anxiety is associated with both interpersonal avoidance and interpersonal dependency. Specifically, we predicted that dependence would be evident in developmentally salient close relationships upon which socially anxious people may rely. One hundred sixty-eight young people undergoing the transition to adulthood completed self-report measures of anxiety and interpersonal patterns. Results indicated that both dependent and avoidant interpersonal styles in romantic relationships, but not other relationships, were uniquely associated with social anxiety. These results remained when controlling for depressive symptoms, anxiety sensitivity, and trait anxiety. Our findings illustrate that social anxiety is not characterized solely by interpersonal avoidance as current conceptualizations suggest. Implications for models and treatment of social anxiety are discussed.
Article
Two experiments examined the degree to which socially anxious people's interpersonal concerns reflect doubts about their personal self-presentational efficacy versus a generalized belief that people tend to evaluate others unfavorably. In the first study, subjects imagined how another person would evaluate them after a brief glance, after a 5-min conversation, or after a prolonged interaction. Compared to subjects low in social anxiety, socially anxious subjects thought they would be evaluated more megatively in every condition. In a second study, subjects were asked how a perceiver would evaluate either them or another person after a very brief, short, or long interaction. As before, anxious subjects thought they would be judged less favorably than less anxious subjects regardless of the length of the interaction. Importantly, socially anxious subjects indicated that perceivers would evaluate other people just as negatively, whereas low anxiety subjects thought they personally would be evaluated more positively than most other people. The implications of these findings for the growing literature on adaptive self-illusions is discussed.
Article
The current study examined aspects of communication and intimacy between people with social phobia and their romantic partners. Forty-eight individuals with social phobia and 58 community controls completed a series of questionnaires to measure self-disclosure, emotional expression and levels of intimacy within their romantic relationships. Participants with social phobia reported less emotional expression, self-disclosure and intimacy than controls, even after controlling for a diagnosis of mood disorder. The group differences did not differ significantly by gender. A continuous measure of social anxiety also correlated significantly with the three relationship measures and these associations held for emotional expression and self-disclosure after controlling for levels of dysphoria. People with social phobia report reduced quality within their romantic relationships, which may have implications for impairment, social support and ultimately maintenance of the disorder.
Article
32 generalized social phobic outpatients and 32 matched nonclinical control subjects participated in a dyadic 'getting acquainted' interaction with an experimental assistant who engaged in either positive or negative social behavior. The accuracy of social phobics' and control subjects' perceptions of themselves and their partners were compared in the two conditions. Relative to observers' ratings, the social phobics displayed a negative bias in their appraisals of some, but not all, aspects of their social performance. These results suggested that social phobics may have particular difficulty gauging the nonverbal aspects of their social behavior. The phobics discounted their social competence to the same extent in the positive interaction, where their behavior was more skillful, as in the negative interaction. The social phobics were also less accurate than nonclinical controls in their appraisals of their partners, however, these phobic subjects displayed a positive bias when appraising their partner's performance.
Article
People who are sensitive to social rejection tend to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to it. This article shows that this cognitive-affective processing disposition undermines intimate relationships. Study 1 describes a measure that operationalizes the anxious-expectations component of rejection sensitivity. Study 2 provides experimental evidence that people who anxiously expect rejection readily perceive intentional rejection in the ambiguous behavior of others. Study 3 shows that people who enter romantic relationships with anxious expectations of rejection readily perceive intentional rejection in the insensitive behavior of their new partners. Study 4 demonstrates that rejection-sensitive people and their romantic partners are dissatisfied with their relationships. Rejection-sensitive men's jealousy and rejection-sensitive women's hostility and diminished supportiveness help explain their partners' dissatisfaction.
Article
Judgmental biases for threat-relevant stimuli are thought to be important mechanisms underlying the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders. The authors hypothesized (a) that people with generalized social phobia (GSP) would rate negative social events but not nonsocial events as more probable and costly than would nonanxious controls (NACs) and (b) that cognitive behavioral treatment would decrease probability and cost estimates for social but not nonsocial events. Participants with GSP and NACs were assessed twice, 14 weeks apart, during which the former received cognitive behavioral therapy. Those with GSP evidenced socially relevant judgmental biases prior to treatment, and these were attenuated following treatment. Reduction in cost estimates for social events, but not in probability estimates, mediated improvement in social phobia. Results are discussed in light of emotional processing theory.
Article
To what extent are attachment styles manifested in natural social activity? A total of 125 participants categorized as possessing secure, avoidant, or anxious-ambivalent attachment styles kept structured social interaction diaries for 1 week. Several theoretically important findings emerged. First, compared with secure and anxious-ambivalent persons, avoidant persons reported lower levels of intimacy, enjoyment, promotive interaction, and positive emotions, and higher levels of negative emotions, primarily in opposite-sex interactions. Analyses indicated that avoidant persons may structure social activities in ways that minimize closeness. Second, secure people differentiated more clearly than either insecure group between romantic and other opposite-sex partners. Third, the subjective experiences of anxious-ambivalent persons were more variable than those of the other groups. Finally, the authors examined and rejected the possibility that attachment effects might be confounded with physical attractiveness. These findings suggest that feeling and behaviors that arise during spontaneous, everyday social activity may contribute to the maintenance of attachment styles in adulthood.
Article
This study investigated how perceptions of current dating partners and relationships change after people with different attachment orientations attempt to resolve a problem in their relationship. Dating couples were videotaped while they tried to resolve either a major or a minor problem. Confirming predictions from attachment theory, men and women who had a more ambivalent orientation perceived their partner and relationship in relatively less positive terms after discussing a major problem. Observer ratings revealed that more ambivalent women who tried to resolve a major problem displayed particularly strong stress and anxiety and engaged in more negative behaviors. Conversely, men with a more avoidant orientation were rated as less warm and supportive, especially if they discussed a major problem. These results are discussed in terms of how highly ambivalent and highly avoidant people differentially perceive and respond to distressing events.
Article
The current paper presents a model of the experience of anxiety in social/evaluative situations in people with social phobia. The model describes the manner in which people with social phobia perceive and process information related to potential evaluation and the way in which these processes differ between people high and low in social anxiety. It is argued that distortions and biases in the processing of social/evaluative information lead to heightened anxiety in social situations and, in turn, help to maintain social phobia. Potential etiological factors as well as treatment implications are also discussed.
Article
The development and validation of the Social Phobia Scale (SPS) and the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS) two companion measures for assessing social phobia fears is described. The SPS assesses fear of being scrutinised during routine activities (eating, drinking, writing, etc.), while the SIAS assesses fear of more general social interaction, the scales corresponding to the DSM-III-R descriptions of Social Phobia--Circumscribed and Generalised types, respectively. Both scales were shown to possess high levels of internal consistency and test-retest reliability. They discriminated between social phobia, agoraphobia and simple phobia samples, and between social phobia and normal samples. The scales correlated well with established measures of social anxiety, but were found to have low or non-significant (partial) correlations with established measures of depression, state and trait anxiety, locus of control, and social desirability. The scales were found to change with treatment and to remain stable in the face of no-treatment. It appears that these scales are valid, useful, and easily scored measures for clinical and research applications, and that they represent an improvement over existing measures of social phobia.
Article
Three experiments examined how needs for acceptance might constrain low versus high self-esteem people's capacity to protect their relationships in the face of difficulties. The authors led participants to believe that their partner perceived a problem in their relationship. They then measured perceptions of the partner's acceptance, partner enhancement, and closeness. Low but not high self-esteem participants read too much into problems, seeing them as a sign that their partner's affections and commitment might be waning. They then derogated their partner and reduced closeness. Being less sensitive to rejection, however, high self-esteem participants affirmed their partner in the face of threat. Ironically, chronic needs for acceptance may result in low self-esteem people seeing signs of rejection where none exist, needlessly weakening attachments.
Article
Social phobia is a common anxiety disorder associated with significant impairment in social and occupational functioning. To date, few studies have examined the relationship between social phobia and perceived social support, a construct with important relationships to physical and mental health. The present study examined data from 2 widely used measures of perceived social support administered to 132 individuals with DSM-IV generalized social phobia. These data were compared with those obtained from a healthy control group and from several clinical and non-clinical samples reported in the literature. Persons with generalized social phobia scored significantly lower on both measures of social support compared with all other groups. It is suggested that deficits in perceived social support associated with generalized social phobia may play a role in the development of co-morbid problems and should be explicitly targeted by treatments for social phobia. Low correlations between perceived social support and social anxiety measures suggest that perceived support should be specifically evaluated in this population.
Article
This study examined differences between socially anxious and nonanxious individuals' ability to use effective communication skills and social skills in the context of romantic relationships. Socially anxious (n = 13) and nonanxious (n = 14) individuals and their romantic partners were videotaped while participating in 10-minute neutral, negative, and pleasant conversations. Regardless of the type of conversation in which they were involved, socially anxious individuals demonstrated impairment in 10 of the 11 social skill variables assessed. In negative conversations, socially anxious individuals displayed more "very negative" behaviors than nonanxious individuals, and across all conversations they displayed fewer "positive" behaviors than nonanxious individuals. Partners of socially anxious and nonanxious individuals did not differ in their communication quality. The results suggest that social anxiety is associated with deficits in relationship maintenance behavior and call for the completion of a larger study examining the interpersonal consequences of social anxiety.
Article
Guided by attachment theory, a 2-part study was conducted to test how perceptions of relationship-based conflict and support are associated with relationship satisfaction/closeness and future quality. Dating partners completed diaries for 14 days (Part 1) and then were videotaped while discussing a major problem that occurred during the diary study (Part 2). Part 1 reveals that more anxiously attached individuals perceived more conflict with their dating partners and reported a tendency for conflicts to escalate in severity. Perceptions of daily relationship-based conflicts negatively impacted the perceived satisfaction/closeness and relationship futures of highly anxious individuals, whereas perceptions of greater daily support had positive effects. Part 2 reveals that highly anxious individuals appeared more distressed and escalated the severity of conflicts (rated by observers) and reported feeling more distressed. The authors discuss the unique features of attachment anxiety and how changing perceptions of relationship satisfaction/closeness and stability could erode commitment over time.
Article
In general, expressing emotions is beneficial and withholding emotions has personal and social costs. Yet, to serve social functions there are situations when emotions are withheld strategically. We examined whether social anxiety influenced when and how emotion expressiveness influences interpersonal closeness in existing romantic relationships. For people with greater social anxiety, withholding the expression of negative emotions was proposed to preserve romantic relationships and their benefits. We examined whether social anxiety and emotion expressiveness interacted to predict prospective changes in romantic relationship closeness over a 12-week period. For people with less social anxiety, relationship closeness was enhanced over time when negative emotions were openly expressed whereas relationship deterioration was found for those more likely to withhold emotions. The reverse pattern was found for people with greater social anxiety such that relationship closeness was enhanced over time for those more likely to withhold negative emotions. Related social anxiety findings were found for discrepancies between desired and actual feelings of closeness over time. Findings were not attributable to depressive symptoms. These results suggest that the costs and benefits of emotion expression are influenced by a person's degree of social anxiety.
Article
People possess an innate need to belong that drives social interactions. Aberrations in the need to belong, such as social anhedonia and social anxiety, provide a point of entry for examining this need. The current study used experience-sampling methodology to explore deviations in the need to belong in the daily lives of 245 undergraduates. Eight times daily for a week, personal digital assistants signaled subjects to complete questionnaires regarding affect, thoughts, and behaviors. As predicted, higher levels of social anhedonia were associated with increased time alone, greater preference for solitude, and lower positive affect. Higher social anxiety, in contrast, was associated with higher negative affect and was not associated with increased time alone. Furthermore, greater social anxiety was associated with greater self-consciousness and preference to be alone while interacting with unfamiliar people. Thus, deviations in the need to belong affect social functioning differently depending on whether this need is absent or thwarted.
Characteristics of close relationships in people with social anxiety disorder; a preliminary comparison with nonanxious people
  • A Wenzel
Wenzel, A. (2002). Characteristics of close relationships in people with social anxiety disorder; a preliminary comparison with nonanxious people. In: J. H. Harvey, & A. Wenzel (Eds.), Maintaining and enhancing close relationships: A clinician's guide (pp. 199-213). Mahway, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • A Afram
  • T B Kashdan
A. Afram, T.B. Kashdan / Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science 4 (2015) 151–156