Individuals with high self-esteem generally report more satisfying and stable marital and dating relationships than individuals troubled by self-doubt. Despite the importance of satisfying relationships for both physical and mental health. little is known about the mechanisms linking self-esteem to relationship well-being. The proposed research is based on the assumption that reflected appraisals - perceptions of a partner's positive regard - mediate the link between self-esteem and the processes of attachment and relationship-valuing critical for relationship well-being and stability. The primary goals of the research are: first, to demonstrate that lows react to acute personal and relationship threats by doubting their partners' continued positive regard and by self-protectively finding less value in their relationships; second, to demonstrate that highs compensate for self and relationship threats by increasing the value of their relationships; third, to examine the short and long-term consequences of these dynamics on relationship well-being and stability; and fourth, to demonstrate that working models that stress the contingencies of acceptance and a sense of self that is overly enmeshed in the relationship activate self-protection motives that interfere with relationship enhancement processes for lows. A longitudinal daily experiences study with married couples and six laboratory experiments with dating individuals are planned over a three year period. The diary experiences study is designed to provide a day to day examination of the links among chronic self-esteem, acute self and relationship threats, reflected appraisals, and relationship-enhancement processes. Two yearly follow-ups will examine the long- term effects of these dynamics on marital well-being and stability. The laboratory experiments are designed to examine how self-esteem moderates responses to signs of negativity in the relationship as well as providing insight into the roles that conditional working models and dependence on the relationship for self-esteem play in mediating these effects. Apart from shedding light on the dynamics of attachment and dependency regulation in close relationships, this research might also facilitate the development of clinical interventions, such as fostering insight into a partner's positive regard and unconditional acceptance, that might circumvent low self-esteem individuals' relationship-defeating thought patterns.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Social and Group Processes Review Committee (SGP)
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Morf, Carolyn
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State University of New York at Buffalo
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Murray, Sandra L; Holmes, John G; Griffin, Dale W et al. (2015) The equilibrium model of relationship maintenance. J Pers Soc Psychol 108:93-113
Murray, Sandra L; Holmes, John G; Derrick, Jaye L et al. (2013) Cautious to a Fault: Self-Protection and the Trajectory of Marital Satisfaction. J Exp Soc Psychol 49:522-533
Cavallo, Justin V; Holmes, John G; Fitzsimons, Grainne M et al. (2012) Managing motivational conflict: how self-esteem and executive resources influence self-regulatory responses to risk. J Pers Soc Psychol 103:430-51
Murray, Sandra L; Pinkus, Rebecca T; Holmes, John G et al. (2011) Signaling when (and when not) to be cautious and self-protective: impulsive and reflective trust in close relationships. J Pers Soc Psychol 101:485-502
Murray, Sandra L; Griffin, Dale W; Derrick, Jaye L et al. (2011) Tempting fate or inviting happiness?: unrealistic idealization prevents the decline of marital satisfaction. Psychol Sci 22:619-26
Murray, Sandra L; Holmes, John G; Pinkus, Rebecca T (2010) A Smart Unconscious? Procedural Origins of Automatic Partner Attitudes in Marriage. J Exp Soc Psychol 46:650-656
Murray, Sandra L; Holmes, John G; Aloni, Maya et al. (2009) Commitment insurance: compensating for the autonomy costs of interdependence in close relationships. J Pers Soc Psychol 97:256-78
Murray, Sandra L; Holmes, John G (2009) The architecture of interdependent minds: A Motivation-management theory of mutual responsiveness. Psychol Rev 116:908-28
Murray, Sandra L; Aloni, Maya; Holmes, John G et al. (2009) Fostering partner dependence as trust insurance: the implicit contingencies of the exchange script in close relationships. J Pers Soc Psychol 96:324-48
Murray, Sandra L; Leder, Sadie; McClellan, Jennifer C D et al. (2009) Becoming Irreplaceable: How Comparisons to the Partner's Alternatives Differentially Affect Low and High Self-Esteem People. J Exp Soc Psychol 45:1180-1191

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