ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (06): 534-544.

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Cultural Differences in the Impacts of Conflict and Support on Romantic Partner Attachment

LU Ai-Tao;ZHANG Ji-Jia;Michael Harris Bond;ZHANG Xue-Xin;Michael Friedman;CHAN Ching   

  1. (1Center for Psychological Application, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China) (2Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hongkong, Hongkong) (3 University of Texas, USA)
  • Received:2008-01-21 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-06-30 Online:2009-06-30
  • Contact: ZHANG Ji-Jia

Abstract: Secure intimate personal relationships play an important role in psychological adjustment and quality of life. So far, a growing body of evidence has supported the idea that the quality of intimate social relationships is highly associated with commitment, satisfaction, conflict, social support, etc. It was found that the hypervigilance of more anxiously attached individuals could intensify the monitoring and appraisal of relationship, which resulted in higher vulnerabity to experiencing distress. Recently, it has been suggested that the frequency and intensity of daily emotions experienced in relationships (i.e., conflict) was a good barometer of how close individuals feel to their partners. Moreover, when highly anxious individuals realize that support is being offered from their romantic partners, no significant decline occurs in satisfaction of their romantic relationships across time. Obviously, the associations between attachment and conflict as well as social support have been extensively-studied, little is known about how romantic partner attachment is affected by conflict and social support cross-culturally. The purpose of the present study was to further investigate the relationships among romantic attachment, conflict, and social support, as well as the modulating effect of culture in these relationships.
153 HK university students (71 male and 82 female, age: M = 20.44 years). Most of them participated in the present study in order to partially fulfill a course requirement, while some of them volunteered to participate with a HK$50 monetary reward. Their romantic relationships had lasted at least 3 months at that time as well (M = 23.47 months). 210 US university students (99 male and 111 female, age: M = 19.04 years) participated in the present study as part of a course requirement. All participants were currently involved at that time in a romantic relationship not less than 3 months (M = 17.22 months). Participants received a battery of questionnaires which included the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale, the Conflict Measurement and Social Support Questionnaire. They completed the battery individually. The order of the questionnaires was randomized across the participants.
The results indicated that conflict, social support and culture × conflict × social support were significant predictors of attachment anxiety. Such salient effect of culture × conflict × social support showed that in HK conflict × social support had little impact on attachment anxiety which indicated that the effects of conflict and support were more likely to counterbalance with each other, while in terms of US the negative effect of conflict was stronger than the positive effect of support. Therefore, in US the more conflict × social support increased, the more significantly attachment anxiety escalated. Regarding to attachment avoidance, the effects of culture and culture × social support were significant. That is, the effect of social support on attachment avoidance in HK is much stronger than that in US.
The findings of the present study suggested culture modulated the relationships between different attachment styles, conflict, and support, which argued against the proposal of culture universality.

Key words: romantic partner attachment, anxiety attachment, avoidance attachment, cross culture, conflict, social support