Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Deborah P. Welsh

Abstract

This dissertation explores the role that physical attractiveness plays in many aspects of adolescent romantic relationships, such as relationship longevity, relationship satisfaction, and power dynamics within the relationship. Three specific questions are examined in this project. First, is partner physical attractiveness associated with relationship satisfaction? Second, do adolescent couples who are well ―matched‖ according to physical attractiveness remain together longer that those who are not? Third, does the couple member who is higher in physical attractiveness have more power in the relationship?

To examine these questions, we used data collected from 99 middle adolescent and 106 late adolescent dating couples. We used survey data, as well as observational coded data of recorded conversations in which the couples discussed an issue of disagreement in their relationship. In order to control for non-independence of partner-members’ responses, data was examined with hierarchical linear modeling when appropriate.

Physical attractiveness was unrelated to general relationship satisfaction or to any positive relationship experiences. However, physical attractiveness was positively associated with negative aspects of relationships, such as possessiveness and emotional painfulness. Matching was unrelated to relationship length or status. In couples in which the female was the more attractive member, both couple members enacted the power pattern (self persuading followed by partner giving in) more frequently compared with other couples. Findings and implications are discussed within the framework of evolutionary, social, and feminist psychology theories. Limitations and directions for future research are also discussed.

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