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The Price of Distrust: Trust, Anxious Attachment, Jealousy, and Partner Abuse

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Trust is essential to the development of healthy, secure, and satisfying relationships (Simpson, 2007a). Attachment styles provide a theoretical framework for understanding how individuals respond to partner behaviors that either confirm or violate trust (Hazan & Shaver, 1994). The current research aimed to identify how trust and attachment anxiety might interact to predict different types of jealousy and physical and psychological abuse. We expected that when experiencing lower levels of trust, anxiously attached individuals would report higher levels of both cognitive and behavioral jealousy as well as partner abuse perpetration. Participants in committed romantic relationships (N = 261) completed measures of trust, attachment anxiety and avoidance, jealousy, and physical and psychological partner abuse in a cross-sectional study. Moderation results largely supported the hypotheses: Attachment anxiety moderated the association between trust and jealousy, such that anxious individuals experienced much higher levels of cognitive and behavioral jealousy when reporting lower levels of trust. Moreover, attachment anxiety moderated the association between trust and nonphysical violence. These results suggest that upon experiencing distrust in one's partner, anxiously attached individuals are more likely to become jealous, snoop through a partner's belongings, and become psychologically abusive. The present research illustrates that particularly for anxiously attached individuals, distrust has cascading effects on relationship cognitions and behavior, and this should be a key area of discussion during therapy.
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Keywords: ATTACHMENT ANXIETY; EMOTIONAL ABUSE; INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE; PHYSICAL ABUSE; ROMANTIC JEALOUSY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2015

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