A cultivation perspective on adolescent romantic development and subsequent adult romantic relationship attachment

Jenna D McNallie, Purdue University


Situated at the intersections of interpersonal and mass/media communication, this study empirically tested a cultivation model that assessed potential mediators of associations between lifetime media exposure and romantic attachment as well as perceptions of normative romantic behavior development trajectories. Specifically, the roles of romantic self-efficacy and a multidimensional scale of perceived realism were assessed. The resulting analyses shed light on early life experiences which promote secure and insecure attachment as well as how television exposure may have long-term impacts on perceptions of normative romantic behaviors and adult attachment dimensions. Additionally, the project proposed that different romantic trajectories, or being on-time in romantic initiation compared to off-time (either early or late), might alter the media effect relationships found. Using an online survey, responses from 695 students from a large Midwestern university were obtained. Findings from the structural equation models indicated that past romantically-oriented television exposure directly influences penetrative sex estimate discrepancies and indirectly influences dating and romantic relationship estimate discrepancies but does not directly or indirectly influence oral sex estimate discrepancies. In addition, early overall and genre-specific television exposure can directly promote both secure (lower attachment avoidance) and insecure (higher attachment anxiety) attachment above the influence of parent and peer attachment, but these relationships are complex when dimensions of perceived realism and romantic self-efficacy are also considered. Generally, whether participants themselves were early, on-time, or late in terms of their romantic development had little influence on the media effects found. These patterns of findings contribute to the body of literature on both attachment theory and cultivation analysis, and offer many directions for future research.




Wilson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Communication|Mass communications

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