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This study investigated a key claim of risk regulation theory, namely, that psychological internalizing of a relationship threat will serve as a mediator of the link between self-models (self-esteem and attachment anxiety) and relationship responses (moving closer to a partner vs. distancing from a partner). Participants (N = 101) received feedback that threatened their current romantic relationship (or no feedback) and then completed measures of internal–external focus, relationship closeness–distancing, and acceptance–rejection of the feedback. Results showed that participants with negative self-models responded to the relationship threat by becoming more internally focused and by distancing from their partners, whereas those with positive self-models became more externally focused and moved closer to their partners. Mediation analyses indicated that the link between self-models and relationship closeness–distancing was partially explained by internal focus.

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Ford, M. B. & Collins, N. L. (2015). Self-models and relationship threat: A test of risk regulation mechanisms. Sage Open, 5, 1-9.

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