Bartz, J. & Lydon, J. (2008). Relationship-specific attachment, risk regulation, and communal norm adherence in close relationships. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 655-663.
Close relationships characterized by attachment anxiety can result in an approach-avoidance conflict, making it difficult to follow the communal script. This research investigated relationship-specific attachment and adherence to communal norms in established close relationships. Participants were randomly assigned to think about a secure, avoidant, or anxious-ambivalent relationship, and visualized scenarios involving the receipt/payment of social commodities. Behavioral intentions, affect, and reciprocation timing and importance were assessed. Those in secure relationships followed the communal script, and reported comfort with their own and their partner’s use of communal norms, whereas those in avoidant relationships used exchange norms and reported distress when their partner used communal norms. Those who felt anxious-ambivalent inconsistently adhered to the communal script: Although they intended to act communal (offer help), they were vigilant about reciprocation (a communal script violation). Moreover, when their partner used communal norms (did a favor), they said they would feel happy but ironically, anxious.