Gender, attachment, and relationship duration on cardiovascular reactivity to stress in a laboratory study of dating couples

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23 Scopus citations


Stress related to relationship events has been a strong predictor of cardiovascular reactivity. This four-phase laboratory study used a multiple-nested design to examine variations in diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and rate-pressure product (RPP: pulse rate [PR] × systolic blood pressure [SBP]) as a function of stress appraisal using 33 college-aged dating couples. Individual participants filled out questionnaires designed to assess the length of their relationships (couple-level factor), gender and attachment styles (individual-level factors); watched a film clip depicting relationship distress; discussed relationship problems; then received instruction for relaxation. Individuals' self-reported stress and negative affect levels (experimental phase-level factors), DBP, SBP, and PR were also measured at each study phase. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses revealed that relationships with longer duration were associated with higher levels of DBP and RPP as perceived stress levels increased. Also, as perceived stress levels increased, men or individuals high in the anxiety dimension of attachment showed higher DBP and RPP reactivity, whereas individuals high in the avoidance dimension of attachment showed lower RPP reactivity. As the negative affect level increased, individuals high in the avoidance dimension of attachment showed lower RPP reactivity. Findings imply that under relationship stress, individuals high in avoidance or anxiety dimensions of attachment may be vulnerable to a range of physical symptoms, such as cardiovascular disease or hypertension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalPersonal Relationships
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Psychology

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