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Behavioural reactions to rejection: the respective influence of attachment and rejection sensitivity

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posted on 2023-01-18, 17:45 authored by Amber M. Denehey
Submission note: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology to the School of Psychological Science, Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

The respective influence of attachment and rejection sensitivity in relating to behavioural reactions to perceived rejection was investigated across two studies. In both studies, attachment and rejection sensitivity were measured using the Experiences in Close Relationships Revised measure (Fraley, Waller, and Brennan, 2000) and the Adult Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (Downey and Feldman, 1996) respectively. The first study sampled self-reported behavioural reactions to perceived rejection through the use of daily diaries in a community sample of 89 participants. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that attachment anxiety was associated with rejection-related outcomes across romantic interactions, whilst rejection sensitivity was not. Rejection sensitivity was associated with such outcomes across non-romantic interactions, but was only related to situational rejection sensitivity. The second study sampled behavioural reactions to perceived rejection that were coded by two coders using the Rapid Marital Interaction Coding System (Heyman and Vivian, 2000) and a newly constructed global coding measure based on interpersonal circumplex theory (Kiesler, 1983; Leary, 1957; Wiggins, 1979). This second study employed 24 community-sampled couples who had been together for a minimum of four months and exposed one member of each couple to a rejection manipulation. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that attachment appears a more relevant construct in associating with post-rejection behaviours in the context of couple relationships, given rejection sensitivity was not significantly associated with any post-rejection behavioural outcomes. Implications for attachment and rejection sensitivity theory are discussed.


Center or Department

Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering. School of Psychological Science.

Thesis type

  • Doctorate

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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