A pain in her arm: Romantic attachment orientations and the tourniquet task

Carol L. Wilson, Mollie A. Ruben

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Prior research has linked attachment anxiety to heightened perceptions of chronic pain. However, few studies have examined attachment and acute pain, and none of these to our knowledge have included partner attachment effects in a dyadic context. Sixty-five healthy undergraduate women were exposed to an ischemic pain task in the presence of their romantic partners. As expected, women's higher attachment anxiety predicted lower pain thresholds, greater subjective pain, and greater catastrophizing. Higher avoidance was associated with longer pain tolerances and, unexpectedly, lower physiological arousal. More avoidant and more anxious women responded negatively to pain when accompanied by a high-anxiety romantic partner. Implications exist for attachment insecurity and hyperactivating emotion regulation strategies as vulnerability factors in coping with pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-265
Number of pages24
JournalPersonal Relationships
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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