Impulsive and reflective trust and the transition to parenthood
Sandra Murray Principal Investigator
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This research advances a model of trust to delineate contextual and psychological factors that foster sustained satisfaction across the transition to parenthood. In relationships, trust functions to signal the safety of approach. Impulsive trust corresponds to automatic evaluative associations to the partner. Reflective trust corresponds to considered beliefs about the partner's motivation to be responsive. The proposed model predicts that being impulsively trusting can inoculate against concerns about the partner's responsiveness in ways that sustain satisfaction. This project involves a longitudinal, multimethod study of the transition to parenthood. The work to be conducted within the scope of the project is promising on several fronts. First, it advances a dual-process model to predict relationship satisfaction over a major life transition. No previous research has examined the singular or joint effects of impulsive or reflective trust on satisfaction over the transition to parenthood. Second, research and theory in the close relationships area has only begun to explore dual-process models. This project is the first to investigate the automatic and controlled processes involved in responding constructively vs. destructively to conflicts-of-interest (in the lab and daily life). Third, people's limited ability to accurately introspect on their experience can impede scientific understanding of the factors that promote relationship satisfaction and stability. Importantly, this work can reveal ways to circumvent such limitations through its focus on reactions that do not require conscious insight into behavior (i.e., challenge/threat cardiovascular responses, if-then contingencies). <br/><br/>In addition to its scientific merit, the research to be carried out promises societal benefits as well. This research could potentially identify tractable points of intervention for strengthening relationships over the transition to parenthood. It could also reveal how strengthening impulsive trust might help vulnerable people (e.g., low in self-esteem) thrive in relationships. Given the centrality of relationships for life happiness, the results of this research should generate broad interest in the field of psychology and the general public. In addition, the project involves the training of graduate and undergraduate students who are underrepresented in advanced data analytic techniques and psychophysiology. The university is part of an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse community, which will be reflected in the participants and graduate and undergraduate members of the research team.