This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Effects of couples' anxiety and avoidance on physical health symptoms




Ryan, Aubrey

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Couples presenting for therapy can be presumed to be experiencing relational distress. Attachment theory guides an understanding of couples’ problems in terms of each partner’s avoidance or anxiety in the relationship. The current study examined whether high levels of avoidance and anxiety affect each partner’s reporting of physical symptoms at therapy intake. Associations were tested for each partner’s own physical symptoms, as well as the physical symptom reporting of his or her partner. We also tested these associations among different configurations of couple attachment security. In the whole sample, high levels of avoidance and anxiety predicted high symptom reporting in both genders, and high female anxiety predicted high male symptom reporting. Findings were somewhat more complex when moderated by attachment security configuration. Crossover effects were shown from a secure male’s high avoidance to his insecure female partner’s high symptom reporting. Gender role norms in a relational context inform interpretation of our results.