Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Thomas, Cheryl

Second Advisor

Jarry, Josée

Keywords

Body image, Couples, Perceptions, Relationship satisfaction, Sexual satisfaction

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

Previous research suggests that body image dissatisfaction is associated with decreased romantic relationship satisfaction, but little is known about why these variables are related. The purpose of the current study was to investigate mediating mechanisms involved in the association between body satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, building on earlier research that has highlighted the potential importance of sexual satisfaction, and incorporating the literature on partner perceptions. The study was informed by Murray, Holmes, and Collins’ (2006) risk regulation framework, which identifies perceived partner regard as an important contributing factor to romantic relationship satisfaction. Specifically, the model states that people need to feel accepted by their partners in order to experience the sense of security necessary to engage in emotionally risky, relationship-enhancing behaviours, such as sexual intimacy. Participants were partners in 251 heterosexual dyads involved in committed relationships. Partners within each dyad completed online self-report questionnaires independently. Consistent with hypotheses, body dissatisfied individuals perceived that their partners shared their negative opinions of the respondent’s body, regardless of their partner’s actual feelings. Perceived partner dissatisfaction with the respondent’s body predicted reduced sexual satisfaction, which in turn, predicted reduced relationship satisfaction. Major contributions of the current study include identifying explanatory processes underlying the body image and relationship satisfaction association, and showing that this process does not differ by gender. Significant methodological and statistical strengths of the current study include the inclusion of both romantic partners, the use of statistical analyses that treat the dyad as the unit of analysis, and the assessment of alternative mediation models.

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