The relationship among attachment styles, empathic accuracy, and relationship satisfaction

Date of Completion

January 2003


Psychology, Social|Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Personality




It has often been assumed that empathy has a direct and consistent effect, either positive or negative, on relationship satisfaction. This study hypothesized that the effects of empathy on relationship quality could be either positive or negative, depending on an individual's attachment style. Fifty-nine dating couples were videotaped while attempting to resolve the most important problem facing their relationship. After the discussion, couples reviewed the videotapes using the Ickes, Stinson, Bissonnette, & Garcia (1990) empathic accuracy procedure. Measures of empathic accuracy were collected for thoughts, positive emotions, and negative emotions. As expected, there was no direct relationship between empathic accuracy and relationship quality. Instead, attachment avoidance, gender, and empathic accuracy for thoughts interacted when predicting relationship quality. Results showed that the effects of empathy and attachment avoidance were opposite for males and females. There was also a two-way interaction between attachment avoidance and empathic accuracy for positive emotions when predicting relationship quality. Results support the contention that individual as well as gender differences qualify the effects of empathic accuracy in romantic relationships. ^