Testing emotion dysregulation as a moderator in an interpersonal process model of intimacy in couples
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Although theorists, researchers, and therapists alike emphasize emotional intimacy as an important aspect of a couple’s relationship, empirical data to understand the underlying processes behind this concept are lacking. The purpose of this study is to examine Reis and Shaver’s interpersonal process model of intimacy in a community sample of couples and to contribute to the current understanding of constructs that may moderate the process of intimacy. Reis and Shaver’s model suggests that vulnerable self-disclosure by one partner, coupled with empathic responding by the other partner, results in greater subjective emotional intimacy. Previous studies have examined this interpersonal process model in a sample of community couples in committed romantic relationships. The present study aims to contribute to the extant literature by testing emotion dysregulation as a potential moderator in Reis and Shaver’s interpersonal process model of intimacy. Multilevel modeling was used to analyze data from 108 community couples. Couples completed measures and were asked to participate in videotaped interactions in which each partner discussed a time that someone other than the partner hurt their feelings (low threat condition) and a time the partner hurt their feelings (high threat condition). For each interaction, partners were assigned to a designated role (speaker or listener). Results lend support to Reis and Shaver’s interpersonal process model of intimacy suggesting that both vulnerable self-disclosure and empathic responding by the partner are key components to one’s subjective experience of emotional intimacy. Results also lend support to the idea that emotion dysregulation moderates the relation between self-disclosure, empathic responding, and resulting post-interaction intimacy; however, when measuring how emotion dysregulation affects post-interaction intimacy within this study, results varied based on whose intimacy was being measured (speaker or listener) and based on the condition (low or high threat.) Clinical implications as well as directions for future research were discussed.
Herrington, Rachael (2008). Testing emotion dysregulation as a moderator in an interpersonal process model of intimacy in couples. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from