Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Chair

Cunningham, Michael R.

Author's Keywords

Psychology; Dating; Close relationships; Intimate partners


Man-woman relationships; Courtship; Mate selection; Interpersonal relations


We are more likely to "hurt the one's we love" than we are complete strangers (cf. R. Miller, 1991, 1997). Early in dating relationships, partners appear to me more likely to manage their impressions to present themselves as better than they really are (romantic inflation), and later in relationships, partners may behave in a manner that is worse than their typical behavior (post romanticism). The social allergy and social enrichment constructs are relevant to these phenomena, as these typologies focus on partner behaviors that are rather minor in their impact on an individual's affect to behaviors that have a major impact on an individual's affect. Negative non-intentional negative behaviors are presumed to be related to negative sex-role stereotypes, with men engaging in more and increasing their frequency of bad habits and women engaging in more and increasing their frequency of inconsiderate behaviors. Changes in these behaviors are also presumed to be related to changes in relationship outcomes according to the investment model. Two preliminary studies were conducted to examine stereotypes about changes over the first year of dating relationships using a sample of 161 undergraduates (study 1) and to examine the relationship between partner behaviors and individual satisfaction using a cross-sectional sample of 124 couples dating an average of 5.25 months (study 2). Study three examined investment model predictions, as well as examining possible explanations for why partners may increase their frequency of negative behaviors and decrease their frequency of positive behaviors. A longitudinal sample of 70 couples dating an average of 13.53 months was followed for two months to examine these questions. The present series of studies suggest that it is largely negative relationship behaviors that increase in frequency over the course of time in dating relationships. Consistent evidence was found for gender differences in behavior corresponding to negative sex-role stereotypes, with men being seen as engaging in more bad habit behaviors and women being seen as engaging in more inconsiderate behaviors. Evidence from study three suggests that among early dating couples, men may increase their bad habit behaviors over time and women may increase their inconsiderate behaviors over time. Interestingly, women who were seen as increasing these behaviors had partners who became less satisfied with their relationships; however, these results were not found for perceptions of men's behavior. Romantic inflation was primarily responsible for explaining changes over time in negative behaviors, and post romanticism was primarily responsible for explaining changes over time in positive behaviors. These findings suggest that individuals presented themselves as more positive than they really were in the beginning of relationships, and became less motivated to refrain from negativity later in relationships. Romantic inflation was related to individuals presenting themselves as better than they really are on the most consequential positive behaviors (emotionally supportive and sexually affectionate behaviors), and only men were more likely to exhibit post romanticism for the most consequential negative behaviors (intrusions and norm violations). Nevertheless, changes in the frequency of both negative and positive partner behaviors appear to be consequential, as partner intrusive, norm-violating, emotional support, and sexually affectionate behaviors were related to the individual's relationship outcomes, such as satisfaction and dissolution. Support was also found in the data for the predictions of the investment model.