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Towards the development of a cognitive-behavioural model of relationship dissolution distress

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posted on 08.01.2015, 12:05 by David Beecraft
There is a large body of research demonstrating that the dissolution of a romantic relationship remains a prospective risk factor for the development of a variety of emotional and clinical problems. Nevertheless, research into the factors that contribute to the variance in distress experienced between individuals has been relatively overlooked in terms of systematic enquiry. A literature review was therefore carried out with a view of understanding further those variables most salient in accounting for individual difference reactions following relationship dissolution. 21 studies examining correlates of relationship dissolution distress were reviewed. Results suggested that a range of variables significantly influence the distress experienced following loss including attachment orientation, personality characteristics, cognitive-behavioural variables and relationship-specific factors. However, it has not yet been examined how such variables may systematically be related and an empirically validated model of relationship dissolution distress has not yet been be proposed within the clinical literature. Twenty-seven participants reporting difficulties adjusting following the dissolution of a relationship were therefore interviewed about their experiences and completed self-report measures pertaining to attachment style and personality characteristics. The aim of the research was to assess for commonality of themes and contribute to the development of a theoretical model of relationship attachment, similar to those available in the research for other emotional disorders. Research objectives were met. Consistency of themes across individuals led to the proposal of a cognitive-behavioural model of relationship dissolution distress. The model is both theoretically and clinically derived and incorporates a number of factors hypothesised to exacerbate and maintain distress over time. The findings have useful clinical implications and point to promising targets of cognitive and behavioural intervention. A critical appraisal contextualises the researcher’s motives for wishing to investigate this particular area and provides a reflective account of the antecedents of this research, borne out of ‘bottom up’ clinical practice.



Allan, Steven

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School of Psychology

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University of Leicester

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