Relationships at risk: How the perceived risk of ending a romantic relationship influences the intensity of romantic affect and relationship commitment
Drawing on emotional intensity theory (EIT: Brehm in Personality and Social Psychology Review 3:2–22, 1999; Brehm and Miron in Motivation and Emotion 30:13–30, 2006), this experiment (N = 104) shows how the manipulated risk of ending a romantic relationship influences the intensity of romantic affect and commitment. As predicted by EIT, the intensity of both romantic feelings varied as a cubic function of increasing levels of manipulated risk of relationship breakup (risk not mentioned vs. low vs. moderate vs. high). Data additionally showed that the effects of manipulated risk on romantic commitment were fully mediated by feelings of romantic affect. These findings complement and extend prior research on romantic feelings (Miron et al. in Motivation and Emotion 33:261–276, 2009; Miron et al. in Journal of Relationships Research 3:67–80, 2012) (a) by highlighting the barrier-like properties of manipulated risk of relationship breakup and its causal role in shaping romantic feelings, and (b) by suggesting that any obstacle can systematically control—thus, either reduce or enhance—the intensity of romantic feelings to the extent that such obstacles are perceived as ‘risky’ for the fate of the relationship.
KeywordsEmotional intensity Deterrence Perceived risk of relationship breakup Romantic affect Relationship commitment Goals Motivation Emotions Paradoxical effects
- Ach, N. (1910). Über den Willensakt und das Temperament [About the act of will and temperament]. Leipzig: Quelle und Meyer.Google Scholar
- Brehm, J. W. (1975). Research on motivational suppression [Grant Proposal]. Lawrence: University of Kansas.Google Scholar
- Brummett, B. H. (1996). The intensity of anger. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Dill, J. (1997). Paradoxical anger: Investigations into the emotional and physiological predictions of Brehm’s theory of emotional intensity. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Missouri, Columbia.Google Scholar
- Fuegen, K., & Brehm, J. W. (2004). The intensity of affect and resistance to social influence. In E. S. Knowles & J. A. Linn (Eds.), Resistance and persuasion (pp. 39–63). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Hillgruber, A. (1912). Fortlaufende Arbeit und Willensbetätigung [Continuos work and will activity]. Leipzig: Quelle und Meyer.Google Scholar
- Howitt, D., & Cramer, D. (2014). Introduction to statistics in psychology (6th ed.). London: Pearson Education Ltd..Google Scholar
- Kline, G. H., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., Olmos-Gallo, P. A., St. Peters, M., Whitton, S. W., & Prado, L. M. (2004). Timing is everything: Pre-engagement cohabitation and increased risk for poor marital outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 311–318. doi: 10.1037/0893-318.104.22.1681.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Monroe, S. M., Rohde, P., Seeley, J. R., & Lewinsohn, P. M. (1999). Life events and depression in adolescence: Relationship loss as a prospective risk factor for first onset of major depressive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 108, 606–614. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.108.4.606.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Murray, S. L., Derrick, J. L., Leder, S., & Holmes, J. G. (2008). Balancing connectedness and self-protection goals in close relationships: A levels-of-processing perspective on risk regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 429–459. doi: 10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1249.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Pantaleo, G. (2011). Enjoying multiplicity: From familiarity to ‘multiple perspectives’. In M. Cadinu, S. Galdi, & A. Maass (Eds.), Social perception, cognition, and language in honour of Arcuri (pp. 51–65). Padua: Cleup.Google Scholar
- Parks, M. R., Stan, C. M., & Eggert, L. L. (1983). Romantic involvement and social network involvement. Social Psychology Quarterly, 46, 116–131. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3033848.
- Rhoades, G. K., Kamp Dush, C. M., Atkins, D. C., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Breaking up is hard to do: The impact of unmarried relationship dissolution on mental health and life satisfaction. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 366–374. doi: 10.1037/a0023627.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Rosenthal, R., & Rosnow, R.L. (1985). Contrast analysis: Focused comparisons in the analysis of variance. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Sinclair, H. C., & Ellithorpe, C. N. (2014). The new story of Romeo and Juliet. In C. R. Agnew (Ed.). Social influences on romantic relationships: Beyond the dyad (Advances in Personal Relationships) (pp. 148–170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBo9781139333640.010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- VanderDrift, L. E., Agnew, C., & Wilson, J. E. (2009). Non-marital romantic relationship commitment and leave behavior: The mediating role of dissolution consideration. Department of Psychological Sciences Faculty Publications. Paper 25. doi: 10.1177/0146167209337543.
- Wright, H. F. (1937). The influence of barriers upon strength of motivation. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Wright, R. A. (2011). Motivational when motivational wasn’t cool. Chapter. In R. M. Arkin (Ed.), Most underappreciated: 50 prominent social psychologists describe their most unloved work. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar