With or without you? Loss of self following marital separation

Atina Manvelian, Kyle J. Bourassa, Erika Lawrence, Matthias R. Mehl, David A. Sbarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

When romantic relationships end, many people experience a loss in identity or loss of self with subsequent psychological distress. To evaluate the predictive validity of loss of self in a sample of separated/divorced adults (N = 133), we use self-report data and judge ratings of behavioral observation to explore if loss of self is associated with psychological distress over five months. We identify predictors of loss of self by examining how judge-rated perceptions of the former partner might lead to changes in loss of self and subsequent psychological distress. Results indicate that higher levels of self-reported and judge-rated loss of self are associated with higher levels of psychological distress. Higher self-reported loss of self at the initial visit was associated with higher levels of psychological distress three months later. Finally, the more divorcing adults spontaneously differentiated and distinguished their identities from their former partners, the smaller their declines in loss of self three months later, and the smaller their declines in psychological distress five months later. Our findings suggest that judge-rated loss of self is associated with psychological distress above-and-beyond self-reported loss of self. Further, it highlights differentiation as a key variable that underpins changes in loss of self and subsequent distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-324
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Volume37
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Breakup
  • Differentiation
  • Divorce
  • Loss-of-self
  • Marital-separation
  • Self-concept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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