American Sociological Association

Don’t Tell Me Who I Can’t Love: A Multimethod Investigation of Social Network and Reactance Effects on Romantic Relationships

In three studies, we examined the influence of social network reactions on feelings toward a romantic partner. Study 1 was a large survey (N = 858), Study 2 was a vignette design in which social network reactions were manipulated, and Study 3 was a laboratory-based, dating game experiment. We found extensive support for the social network effect, whereby relationship approval from family and friends leads individuals to feel more love, more committed, and more positive about a partner. We also examined whether psychological reactance moderated social network influence. Analyses revealed two types of reactance: defiant reactance (doing the opposite of that urged by others) and independent reactance (a desire to make free and independent decisions). Independent reactance but not defiant reactance interacted with network effects and buffered the effects of social adversity. Independent individuals appear capable of ignoring disapproving network opinions. Findings demonstrate a noteworthy interaction between individuals and their social environment.


Select this article H. Colleen Sinclair, Diane Felmlee, Susan Sprecher, and Brittany L. Wright





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