Sex Roles

, Volume 79, Issue 1–2, pp 72–82 | Cite as

Birds of a Feather Flock Together: The Interpersonal Process of Objectification within Intimate Heterosexual Relationships

  • Peter Strelan
  • Stephenie Pagoudis
Original Article


On the basis that objectification is a self-perpetuating phenomenon, we tested two new hypotheses about the role of objectification within ongoing, intimate heterosexual relationships. First, individuals who self-objectify and objectify others tend to have partners who also self-objectify and objectify others. Second, objectification within relationships is associated with reduced relationship quality. Furthermore, rather than relying on the perspective of only one dyad member, we applied the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model (APIM: Kenny et al. 2006) as a framework for hypothesis testing. That is, we collected data from both partners within the relationship on the same variables (n = 59 heterosexual couples). We found support for both hypotheses, but negligible evidence of gender differences in relations between self-objectification, objectification, and relationship quality. Finally, we applied the APIM to replicate previous research on relations among self-objectification, objectification of partner, and body- and self-esteem. Self-objectification and objectification of partner was unrelated to body esteem for both men and women. Self-objectification was associated with reduced self-esteem, irrespective of gender, but objectification of partner was not associated with partner’s self-esteem.


Self-objectification Objectification Relationship quality Romantic relationships Body esteem Self-esteem Dyadic data analysis APIM 



We are grateful to an anonymous reviewer for suggesting the APIM, and for his/her guidance and patience in helping us implement it.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The study received approval from our School ethics committee, and was conducted in accordance with APA ethical guidelines.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declared that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Arroyo, A., & Andersen, K. K. (2016). The relationship between mother-daughter self objectification: Identifying direct, indirect, and conditional direct effects. Sex Roles, 74, 231–241. Scholar
  2. Bachman, J. G. (1970). Youth in transition II: The impact of family background and intelligence on tenth-grade boys. Ann Arbor, MI: The Institute for Social Research.Google Scholar
  3. Bachman, J. G., & O’Malley, P. M. (1977). Self-esteem in young men: A longitudinal analysis of the impact of educational and occupational attainment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 365–380. Scholar
  4. Byrne, D. (1961). Interpersonal attraction and attitude similarity. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 62, 713–715. Scholar
  5. Byrne, D. (1971). The attraction paradigm. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  6. Calogero, R. M., Tantleff-Dunn, S., & Thompson, J. K. (Eds.). (2011). Self-objectification in women: Causes, consequences, and counteractions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  7. Clark, M. S., & Mills, J. (1979). Interpersonal attraction in exchange and communal relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 12–24. Scholar
  8. Cupach, W. R., & Metts, S. (1995). The role of sexual attitude similarity in romantic heterosexual relationships. Personal Relationships, 2, 287–300. Scholar
  9. Duck, S., & Barnes, M. K. (1992). Disagreeing about agreement: Reconciling differences about similarity. Communications Monograph, 59, 199–208. Scholar
  10. Finkel, E. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2010). Attraction and rejection. In E. J. Finkel & R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), Advanced social psychology: The state of the Science (pp. 419–460). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. A. (1997). Objectification theory. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206. Scholar
  12. Garcia, R. L., Earnshaw, V. A., & Quinn, D. M. (2016). Objectification in action: Self-and other-objectification in mixed-sex interpersonal interactions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 40, 213–228. Scholar
  13. Gottman, J. M. (1994). Why marriages succeed or fail ... and how you can make yours last. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  14. Heimerdinger-Edwards, S. R., Vogel, D. L., & Hammer, J. H. (2011). Extending sexual objectification theory and research to minority populations, couples, and men. The Counseling Psychologist, 39, 140–152. 0011000010383894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Impett, E. A., Beals, K. P., & Peplau, L. A. (2001). Testing the investment model of relationship commitment and stability in a longitudinal study of married couples. Current Psychology, 20, 312–326. Scholar
  16. Kenny, D. A. (2015a, January). An interactive tool for testing distinguishablity and nonindependence in dyadic data. Computer Software. Retrieved from
  17. Kenny, D. A. (2015b, February). An interactive tool for the estimation and testing the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model using multilevel modeling. Computer Software. Retrieved from
  18. Kenny, D. A., Kashy, D. A., & Cook, W. L. (2006). The analysis of dyadic data. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  19. Le, B., & Agnew, C. R. (2003). Commitment and its theorized determinants: A meta-analysis of the Investment Model. Personal Relationships, 10, 37–57. Scholar
  20. McKinley, N. M. (1999). Women and objectified body consciousness: Mothers' and daughters' body experience in cultural, developmental, and familial context. Developmental Psychology, 35, 760–769. Scholar
  21. Medling, J. M., & McCarrey, M. (1981). Marital adjustment over segments of the family life cycle: The issue of spouses’ value similarity. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 43, 195–203. Scholar
  22. Mendelson, B. K., & White, D. R. (1993). Manual for the Body-Esteem Scale for Children. Montreal, Canada: Center for Research in Human Development, Concordia University.Google Scholar
  23. Mendelson, B. K., Mendelson, M. J., & White, D. R. (2001). Body Esteem Scale for Adolescents and Adults. Journal of Personality Assessment, 76, 90–106. Scholar
  24. Miner-Rubino, K., Twenge, J. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2002). Trait self-objectification in women: Affective and personality correlates. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 147–172. Scholar
  25. Moradi, B., & Huang, Y. P. (2008). Objectification theory and psychology of women: A decade of advances and future directions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 377–398. Scholar
  26. Noll, S. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). A mediational model linking self-objectification, body shame, and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 623–636. Scholar
  27. Nussbaum, M. C. (1995). Objectification. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 24, 249–291. Scholar
  28. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The Investment Model Scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Relationships, 5, 357–391. Scholar
  30. Sanchez, D. T., & Broccoli, T. L. (2008). The romance of self-objectification: Does priming romantic relationships induce states of self-objectification among women? Sex Roles, 59, 545–554. Scholar
  31. Strelan, P., & Hargreaves, D. (2005a). Reasons for exercise and body esteem: Men’s responses to self-objectification. Sex Roles, 53, 495–603. Scholar
  32. Strelan, P., & Hargreaves, D. (2005b). Women who objectify other women: The vicious circle of objectification? Sex Roles, 52, 707–712. Scholar
  33. Strelan, P., Mehaffey, S. J., & Tiggemann, M. (2003). Self-objectification and esteem in young women: The mediating role of exercise. Sex Roles, 48, 89–95. Scholar
  34. Zurbriggen, E., Ramsey, L., & Jaworski, B. (2011). Self- and partner-objectification in romantic relationships: Associations with media consumption and relationship dissatisfaction. Sex Roles, 64, 449–462. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations