Fear of Intimacy in the Interpersonal Process Model: A Multi-Modal Investigation
Manbeck, Katherine Elizabeth
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Abstract The Interpersonal Process Model (IPM) suggests that closeness develops in relationships when two people reciprocally engage in vulnerable self-disclosure, respond to each other, and perceive each other’s responses as responsive (validating, understanding, and caring). While much research establishes this process as foundational to intimacy, little is known about how fear of intimacy relates. We conducted two studies of fear of intimacy and the IPM. In Study 1, 146 high fear-of-intimacy participants were randomized to a control, to an hour-long fast-friends interaction with research assistants trained to respond to participants' vulnerable disclosures with high responsiveness, or to a fast-friends interaction with no responsiveness. Unlike previous experiments with normal undergraduates documenting that high responsiveness predicts closeness up to two weeks after the interaction, the current study with high fear-of-intimacy individuals found that high responsiveness predicted closeness immediately after the interaction but this was not sustained over time. In Study 2, we conducted structural modeling in a diverse sample of 196 survey respondents with a range of fear of intimacy. Consistent with previous studies, perceived responsiveness strongly predicted closeness. Fear of intimacy demonstrated negative effects on vulnerable self-disclosure and perceived responsiveness, but had a positive direct effect on closeness with those with whom participants were interacting.
- Psychology