Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

70, 255–270 (1996)

Feeney, Brooke C. Kirkpatrick, Lee A.


The effects of presence vs absence of a romantic partner on psychophysiological responses to a stressful laboratory situation were examined in a sample of 35 college women involved in serious dating relationships. Participants performed a standard psychological stress task both in the presence and in the absence of their romantic partners, with order counterbalanced across participants. Heart rate and blood pressure were measured in each of these conditions during both baseline and task performance periods. Avoidant (but not secure) and anxious (but not nonanxious) participants displayed heightened physiological responses across all conditions and periods if the partner-absent condition came first rather than second. Discussion focuses on 2 explanations for the findings in terms of (a) the anxiety-reducing function of attachment relationships and (b) the anxiety-producing effect of separation in a stressful situation.