Explaining romantic disengagement: Attachment, commitment, dissolution consideration, and consent to unwanted sex

Katherine A Beavis, Purdue University


The purpose of this study was to examine the contribution of attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance, commitment, dissolution consideration, and consent to unwanted sex in explaining romantic disengagement. There were two overarching hypotheses. Hypothesis 1, a partial mediation model, was that attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance (i.e., attachment insecurity), commitment, dissolution consideration, and consent to unwanted sex will explain romantic disengagement. H1 had 12 subhypotheses (a-l), specifying the 10 mediation paths and the 2 direct paths from attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance to romantic disengagement. Hypothesis 2, a full mediation model, was the same overarching hypothesis as H1 with 10 subhypotheses, more specifically the same mediation subhypotheses (a-j) but excluding the direct path hypotheses (k-l) from anxiety and avoidance to romantic disengagement. The participants (N = 335) were college students at a Midwestern university who were at least 18 years of age and currently involved in a romantic relationship. They completed the following measures: (a) the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale (Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998), (b) the Investment Model Scale (IM; Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998), (c) the Dissolution Consideration Scale (VanderDrift, Agnew, & Wilson, 2009), (d) the Consent to Unwanted Sex Scale (Impett & Peplau, 2002), and (e) the Romantic Disengagement Scale (Barry, Lawrence, & Langer, 2008). Prior to examining the hypotheses, a MANVOA indicated or that I needed to control for relationship status (i.e., not dating, casual dating, exclusive dating, married/married-like) in examining the hypotheses. I used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test the hypotheses, with relationship status (i.e., exclusive dating and married/married-like) entered as a covariate, thereby controlling for this demographic variable. The H1 partial mediation model was a significantly better fit to the data than the H2 full mediation model. In the H1 model, relationship status accounted for significant variance in the model. In addition, (a) several hypothesized mediation paths (i.e., avoidance-commitment, anxiety-dissolution consideration, commitment-dissolution consideration, dissolution-consideration-romantic disengagement) were supported, and (b) the hypothesized avoidance-romantic dissolution direct path was supported. Furthermore, the anxiety-commitment path was significant but was positive instead of in the hypothesized negative direction. The partial mediation model (H1) results suggest that the anxiously and avoidantly attached reach romantic disengagement through different routes. Anxious attachment seems to be influenced both by commitment level and by dissolution consideration. Avoidant attachment has a direct link to romantic disengagement and also seems to be influenced by commitment level and dissolution consideration. I also discuss limitations and implications for counseling psychology research and practice.




Pistole, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Counseling Psychology|Clinical psychology

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