Betrayals, mental health, and the role of relationship contingent self-esteem
Date of Award
M.A. in Psychology, Clinical
Department of Psychology
Advisor: Lee J. Dixon
When a betrayal occurs within an intimate relationship the experience of negative and detrimental mental health symptoms (i.e., stress, anxiety, depression) can vary widely from person to person (Gottman, 2014; Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001). The primary goal of this study is to examine how a variety of factors (i.e., Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem, Attachment Style, Attributions, and Rumination) influence the degree to which an individual experiences negative mental health symptoms following a betrayal. The present study further strengthens the field of research and offers insight into the association between personality characteristics and the workings of the relationship dyad. The present study used data collected from a population of students attending a private Mid-western university. Participants were administered questionnaire packets inquiring about a betrayal within their romantic relationship and subsequently answered questions regarding their contingency on the relationship, attachment style to their partner, attributions processes, and how often they ruminated about the betrayal. It was hypothesized that high Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem would be associated with high Anxious Attachment, a replication of the finding by Knee et al. (2008). Additionally, individuals with high Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem would experience more severe negative mental health symptoms following a betrayal, would ruminate excessively about the betrayal, and be less satisfied with their relationship. Further, internal, generalized, and stable attributions were hypothesized to mediate the relationship between Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem and relationship satisfaction. Due to the positive correlation between Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem and Anxious attachment as documented by Knee, Canevello, Bush, & Cook (2008), the above hypotheses were mirrored for individuals with high Anxious Attachment. Results indicate that Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem and Anxious attachment are positively correlated, replicating Knee et al. (2008). Anxious Attachment was found to be associated with more severe mental health symptoms and excessive rumination about the betrayal. Internal, generalized, and stable attributions were found to mediate the association between Anxious Attachment and Relationship Satisfaction. Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem was not related to negative mental health symptoms, relationship satisfaction, or rumination. Further, attributions did not mediate the relationship between Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem and relationship satisfaction. These findings suggest that while Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem is a unique construct, it is not universally negative. Limitations and future directions are discussed.
Betrayal Psychological aspects, Interpersonal relations in young adults Psychological aspects, Self-esteem in young adults, Anxiety, Psychology, Mental Health, Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem, Betrayal, Anxious Attachment
Copyright 2016, author
Ballas, Thomas N., "Betrayals, mental health, and the role of relationship contingent self-esteem" (2016). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 1169.