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Intimacy and influence strategies: a function of gender, attachment style, and type of relationship Parker, Sandra


Gender differences in the ways individuals think about and behave in close relationships are widely reported and reliable findings, yet there are also inconsistencies and exceptions in such patterns. More integrative and theory—driven approaches may better focus research efforts and deepen our understanding of the complexities of close relationships for women and men. Attachment theory provides a rich framework for examining the manner in which individuals engage in and make meaning of their affectional bonds. There appears good reason to speculate that gender and attachment style mutually shape the terrain of close relationships with others, yet the joint effects of gender and attachment style are rarely hypothesized and explicitly tested. A cross—sectional study of university undergraduates was conducted with 20 women and 20 men each screened into one of four attachment styles (secure, fearful, preoccupied, dismissing) using self—report measures (N=160). Participants reported on intimacy and influence strategies in their romantic relationship, closest same sex, and cross sex friendship. For the first dependent variable, attachment style significantly interacted with gender: 1) dismissing women reported higher intimacy than dismissing men; 2) patterns of intimacy within gender across relationship types differed for women and men. Relationship type was associated with different patterns of intimacy for women and men; e.g., men consistently reported highest intimacy in their romantic relationship whereas women’s most intimate relationship varied between same sex friendship and romantic relationship. This research provides new support for hypothesized profiles of influence strategies for each attachment style: secure subjects were more likely than all others to use integration/compromise; fearful subjects to use avoidance; dismissing to use dominance; and preoccupied to use both domination and obliging strategies. Relationship type was associated with different patterns of influence use by gender: e.g., men used more dominance in same sex friendships than romantic relationships, whereas the reverse was true for women. This study illustrates the separate and joint effects of gender, attachment style, and relationship type on individuals’ reports of intimacy and use of influence strategies.

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