Social cognitive processing theory of romantic relationship dissolution.


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Social cognitive processing (SCP) theory has been found to be predictive of significant distress and intrusive thinking following stressful life events and therefore creates a strong theoretical framework to examine how individuals cope following a breakup (Lepore, 2001). Only one study to date (i.e. Harvey & Karpinski, 2016) has examined the role of SCP theory in romantic relationship dissolution, which proposed that the relationship between negative interactions and breakup distress is mediated through avoidant coping behavior following a breakup. The current study served to expand on this research by: (a) replicating the basic model proposed by Harvey & Karpinski (2016), (b) investigating intrusive thoughts as a negative outcome, (c) examining the construct of avoidant coping behaviors within the model, and (d) exploring the distinct roles of negative and positive interactions with social supports. Participants included 319 college-age individuals who experienced a breakup within the past 12 months; they completed a one-time, online survey via the SONA recruitment system. Negative interactions demonstrated a partially mediated relationship with breakup distress through avoidant coping that was commensurate with Harvey & Karpinski’s (2016) results. Intrusive thoughts were also found to be a significant negative outcome within the proposed mediation model. Specific types of avoidant coping behaviors were found to be distinct and to play a role in mediating the relationship between negative interactions and negative outcomes (i.e. breakup distress and intrusive thoughts), while a general type of avoidant coping did not appear to predict unique variance. Positive interactions were not associated with the other variables in the study. Overall, the results suggests that SCP theory is a potential theoretical model in which to examine the effects of negative interactions on coping and negative outcomes following romantic relationship dissolution. Results also raise questions about the importance of positive interactions within SCP theory of romantic relationship dissolution.



Social cognitive processing theory. Romantic relationship dissolution. Social support. Breakups.