Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



First Adviser

Burke, Christopher T.

Other advisers/committee members

Laible, Deborah; Packer, Dominic J.; Woodhouse, Susan S.


Although social support is integral to dealing with the challenges of everyday life, research reveals that it can sometimes have unfavorable consequences. Social-cognitive models of behavior indicate that an individual’s cognitive appraisal of a supportive interaction is critical to the resulting consequences, and research suggests that interpreting support behaviors as evaluative may contribute to unfavorable reactions. The potential to feel negatively evaluated may be an inherent part of many supportive interactions, but not all individuals may be equally prone to such responses. Particularly, previous work suggests that attachment-related beliefs can shape the interpretation and experience of support receipt, acting as an interpretive filter through which individuals develop expectations about support, make decisions to elicit or avoid support receipt, and interpret their experiences. This dissertation examines the relationship between attachment and perceptions of unfavorable evaluations within supportive interactions and investigates the emotional and behavioral consequences. Furthermore, the present work emphasizes the interrelatedness amongst different aspects of the support process, predicting that perceptions of supportive interactions unfold in such a way that past experiences influence expectations, memory, and subsequent behaviors related to future support receipt. Study 1 used an ongoing vignette scenario to assess the influence of attachment on expectations that support will result in negative evaluations and the degree to which this affects anticipated emotions and the desire to receive subsequent support. Study 2 examined the interrelations amongst attachment, perceptions of being negatively evaluated, and emotional and behavioral reactions in actual supportive situations as well as how attachment style influences memories of these experiences. Overall, this work provides evidence that working models of attachment shape appraisals of supportive interactions, including partial support for the link between anxiety and perceived negative evaluations. This research also draws attention to the dynamic interplay between different parts of the support process, highlighting links between past experiences of support and future openness to support receipt as well as some evidence for the influence of working models of attachment on memory for experiences of interactions. I discuss the implications of this research and how it contributes to the current literature aimed at understanding reactions to enacted support.

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Psychology Commons