College Students' Television Friends: Parasocial Relationships as Attachment Bonds
This study examined if parasocial relationships (PSR) with favorite TV characters can function as supplementary attachment bonds, as defined by the four theoretical components of attachment: proximity seeking behaviors, separation protest behaviors, safe haven function, and secure base function (Bowlby, 1969/1982; Hazan, Gur-Yaish, & Campa, 2004). To empirically test if PSRs can fulfill attachment-related functions, I examined the relatedness of PSR with a favorite TV character (i.e., TV-PSR), attachment anxiety and avoidance, loneliness, and stress. Undergraduate and graduate college students ( N = 226) completed (a) demographic items, (b) the WHOTO scale (Fraley & Davis, 1997) adapted for this study, (c) Revised Parasocial Interaction Scale (PSI-R; Rubin & Perse, 1987), (d) Experiences in Close Relationships Inventory - Revised (ECR-R; Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2000), (e) Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale (Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1980), and (f) Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983). For this correlational study, I examined five hypotheses. Hypothesis 1 (H1) stated that Romantic Partner Proximity would be negatively correlated with TV Character Proximity. Hypothesis 2 (H2) stated that PSR would be negatively correlated with loneliness and with stress. Hypothesis 3 (H3) predicted that attachment anxiety and avoidance would positively predict both (a) loneliness and (b) stress, and (c) anxiety would uniquely and positively predict TV-PSR, whereas avoidance would negatively predict PSR. Hypothesis 4 (H4) predicted TV-PSR would moderate the positive correlations between attachment anxiety and avoidance and (a) loneliness and (b) stress; and Hypothesis 5 (H5) predicted TV-PSR would moderate the negative correlation between Peer/Friend Proximity and loneliness. In terms of results, Pearson correlation indicated that H1 was not supported; Romantic Partner Proximity was not significantly and negatively related to TV Character Proximity. Pearson correlation indicated that H2 was not supported; TV-PSR was significantly and positively, rather than negatively, related to loneliness and stress. Multiple regressions indicted that H 3 was partially supported. Attachment anxiety and avoidance positively predicted loneliness (H3a), but only anxiety significantly positively predicted stress (H3b); and anxiety uniquely and positively contributed to TV-PSR, whereas avoidance significantly negatively predicted TV-PSR (H 3c). Hierarchical regressions indicated H4 was not supported; TV-PSR did not reduce the positive associations between attachment anxiety and avoidance dimensions and loneliness and stress. Additionally, TV-PSR was significantly positively correlated with loneliness and stress, but when attachment anxiety and avoidance are controlled, the ability of TV-PSR to predict loneliness and stress became non-significant. Hierarchical regression also indicated Hypothesis 5 (H5) was not supported; TV-PSR did not reduce the negative association between Peer/Friend Proximity and loneliness. In addition, in supplemental analyses, Pearson correlations revealed that TV-PSR (as measured by the PSI-R scores) was significantly positively correlated with four items measuring attachment theory's proximity, separation, safe haven, and secure base components, thereby providing convergent validity evidence for the PSR measure (i.e., the PSI-R scores). This research contributes to attachment and PSR literature by finding that (a) college students form parasocial relationships, that is, one-sided cognitive-affective bonds with favorite TV characters, and (b) such bonds are associated with attachment-related feelings. Implications for future research and clinical practice are discussed.
Pistole, Purdue University.
Counseling Psychology|Mass communications
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