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The study of cyclical (on again/off again) relationships during young adulthood is relatively new, but initial findings suggest that they experience lower relationship quality. This is problematic because early relationship quality impacts later relationship quality. Building on previous research, the current study compared partners in cyclical (n = 167) and non-cyclical (n = 249) relationships on individual and relationship characteristics, finding that African American young adults were more likely to be in cyclical relationships than Caucasians. Also, those in cyclical relationships more often reported living more than 50 miles apart from their partner, having relationships of longer overall duration, doing less conscious decision making around relationship transitions, expressing more uncertainty about the future of the relationship, less constructive communication, and lower relationship satisfaction than those in non-cyclical relationships. In testing a model of relationship satisfaction based on the ideas of Stanley et al. (2006), findings included both direct and indirect effects for dedication, lack of conscious decision making (sliding), uncertainty, and constructive communication on relationship satisfaction. Differences were found in the model between those in cyclical and non-cyclical relationships. That is, the model accounted for 40% of the variance in constructive communication for those in cyclical relationships, but only 21% of the variance for those in non-cyclical relationships. Additionally, the model accounted for only 1% more variance in uncertainty (cyclical = 46% and non-cyclical = 45%) and relationship satisfaction (cyclical = 57% and non-cyclical = 56%). Conversely, the model accounts for more variance in relationship safety for those in non-cyclical relationships (cyclical = 19% and non-cyclical = 30%). These findings provide more information on the mechanisms leading to lower relationship quality in cyclical relationships and support the ideas of Stanley et al. on the indirect impact of sliding on relationship satisfaction through relationship behaviors. Implications for intervention, especially couples therapy, and future research are discussed.
Sliding, Relational Uncertainty, Young Adult, Dating, Cyclical Relationships
Date of Defense
March 30, 2011.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Family and Child Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
B. Kay Pasley, Professor Directing Dissertation; Neil Abell, University Representative; Frank D. Fincham, Committee Member; Lenore M. McWey, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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