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Self-Disclosure in Intimate Relationships: Associations with Individual and Relationship Characteristics Over Time

Self-disclosure is an act of intimacy and serves as a maintenance strategy, and yet very little prior research has examined self-disclosure within relationships with data collected multiple times over an extended period of time and from both partners. With longitudinal data collected from both partners in young adult dating couples, we examined how self-disclosure is associated with both individual characteristics (e.g., responsiveness, self-esteem) and relationship characteristics (satisfaction, love, commitment). Overall, men and women indicated a similar high level of self-disclosure. As hypothesized, positive associations were found between self-disclosure and the individual characteristics of self-esteem, relationship esteem (confidence as an intimate partner), and responsiveness (as indicated by data collected at Time 1). Self-disclosure also was positively associated with relationship quality (satisfaction, love, and commitment). Similar positive associations were typically found at the follow-up waves, although in many cases the correlations were not significant and were more modest in magnitude. Level of self-disclosure was generally not predictive of whether the couple stayed together or broke up over time, although the more that women perceived their partner disclosed at Time 1, the less likely the couple was to break up by Time 2. It is speculated that the generally high level of self-disclosure at Time 1 for the entire sample limited the degree to which self-disclosure could predict which relationships stayed together and which broke up over time. In an analysis that involved the subsample of couples who stayed together thoughout the study (many of whom married by Time 5), no significant change was found in levels of self-disclosure.

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