How sweet it is to be loved by you : toward an understanding of why close relationships buffer existential fear
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Theory and research suggest that close relationships help to buffer against existential fears associated with the awareness of death (Mikulincer Florian, & Hirschberger, 2003). However, the question of why people turn to close others following thoughts of death remains a mystery. One possibility is that close relationships are important because they serve as a source of self esteem. Drawing from terror management theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986), the present research examined the overlap between relationship and self-esteem concerns following thoughts of death. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that reminders of death lead people to exaggerate how positively their romantic partners see them. Study 3 used meditational analyses to find that people are more committed to romantic partners to the extent that their romantic partners serve as a source of perceived regard following MS. Study 4 examined how attachment style interacts with reminders of death to influence perceived regard from close others and found that, after MS, insecure individuals exaggerated how positively their parents see them, whereas secure individuals exaggerated how positively their romantic parents see them. Implications of this research for the terror management role of close relationships are further discussed.
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