Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Women's Personality Traits, Interpersonal Competence and Affection for Dating Partners: A Test of the Contextual Model

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Women's Personality Traits, Interpersonal Competence and Affection for Dating Partners: A Test of the Contextual Model

Article excerpt

This study utilized the contextual model to examine the relationship between distal (FiveFactor Model of Personality), proximal (interpersonal competence), and affective outcome (love, liking) factors in women's perception of their dating relationships. Respondents (n=123 females) completed a questionnaire packet to assess each of the factors. Results indicated that women's personality traits made direct and indirect contributions to liking and love for dating partners. Overall, the findings indicated that both distal and proximal factors contributed to relationship quality, and provided support for the contextual model.

Romantic relationships are of central importance in the lives of young adults. While both men and women participate in romances, there is evidence that women may be more involved in such relationships. Compared to men, women show greater responsiveness to partner needs (Vangelisti & Daly, 1997) and assume greater responsibility for nurturing and maintaining relationships (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1992). Given these trends, women's experiences of dating relationships are worthy of more attention.

The contextual model provides a framework for examining how individual and interpersonal characteristics play out in romantic relationships. According to the model, the distal context includes personality traits, and relationship beliefs that create a paradigm through which relational events are processed. In contrast, the proximal context includes the immediate responses a partner experiences during a relationship event (Bradbury & Fincham, 1989). The proximal context mediates linkages between the distal context and relationship outcomes; the importance of the distal context lies in its ability to impact the proximal context, which in turn affects relationship quality (Bradbury & Fincham, 1989).

The personality dimensions of the distal context affect not only the ways in which relationships are viewed, but also interpersonal processes. In the current study, the Five-Factor Model (FFM, Costa & McCrae, 1992) of personality was used to represent the distal context. The five factors are extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. The authors chose to assess these factors because McCrae and John (1992) argued that they reflect basic dimensions of personality, and affect relationships.

The two traits of agreeableness and extraversion may be particularly salient for women's experiences in dating relationships. More specifically, agreeableness reflects a willingness to be pleasant and accommodating; extraversion is reflected by warmth and gregariousness (Costa, McCrae, & Dye, 1991). Consistent with these traits, women (more so than men) are expected to be warm, nurturant, and responsive to others in intimate relationships (Baber & Allen, 1992). Langston and Sykes (1997) argued that there exists adequate evidence to assume that the Fivefactors represent a sufficient taxonomy of basic personality traits, but that research to date has failed to examine how such traits affect proximal characteristics and behaviors. This gap was addressed by examining distal-proximal linkages in women's experiences in romantic relationships.

The proximal context has been expanded beyond the study of attributions to include the patterns of interaction in relationships (Fletcher & Fitness, 1990). Examining behaviors likely to affect relationship outcomes may expand our knowledge of the proximal context. Buhrmester, Furman, Wittenburg, and Reis (1988) identified self-disclosure, emotional support, assertion, and conflict resolution as four dimensions of competence that directly contribute to relationship quality. Given that past research typically showed that women more often engage in such interpersonal events (e.g., self-disclosure), the authors focused on how (in conjunction with personality traits) these proximal behaviors affect dating outcomes. …

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