Insults to Significant Others

Elaine Wilcox-Cook, The College of Wooster


In close relationships, one member of the dyad expands their self-concept to integrate aspects of the other member of the dyad. My study examined differences of this self-expansion in young women in college, comparing its occurrence in close romantic others (boyfriends) and close platonic others (best friends). Much past research examining platonic and romantic others has compared the relationships quantitatively, examining time spent exclusively with one significant other and ignoring self-expansion, and has concluded that boyfriends are closer and more important to young women than best friends are. However, other research suggests that women tend to be of similar levels of closeness with their best friends and romantic others, and simply use their significant others for different purposes. In my study, I measure differences in self-expansion by examining the direction of protective impression management. My hypotheses regarding impression management and relationship type were mostly supported, with women engaging in more private impression management (indicating self-schema threat) in the platonic condition, and women in the romantic condition engaging in more public impression management.