Date of Award:

5-2010

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Renee V. Galliher

Abstract

This study investigated empathic accuracy in adolescent romantic relationships. The project examined the relationships between psychological characteristics and relationship outcomes (i.e., satisfaction and aggression) to determine if the relationships were mediated by empathic accuracy. Participants were 92 heterosexual couples aged 14-18 years old who lived in rural areas in Utah and Arizona. Couple members completed surveys assessing attitudes and behaviors in their relationships and a video-recall procedure in which partners rated their own and their partner's behaviors during problem-solving discussion. Empathic accuracy was generally not related to psychological characteristics or outcomes. It became apparent that there were limitations with the methodology used to measure empathic accuracy. Due to the very strong correlations between participants' ratings of themselves and their ratings of their partners, ratings of self and partner were collapsed for each interaction variable to capture interpretations/biases employed by the participants in evaluating aspects of their interactions. The global video-recall ratings were then analyzed to determine if they mediated the relationships between psychological characteristics and outcomes. Rejection sensitivity emerged as an important psychological characteristic, and interpretations of conflict and sarcasm mediated the relationship between rejection sensitivity and outcomes of aggression and satisfaction.

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