Positive Regard Self Esteem and Romantic Relationships

One of Rogers's key theoretical assumptions was that self-esteem depends on knowledge that one is genuinely understood and unconditionally accepted and loved by an important person hi one's life. Additionally, those relationships that facilitate such high self-esteem should be more enjoyable than those relationships that do not provide such benefits.

In order to test these predictions, Duncan Cramer (2003a) conducted a study with mostly female university students currently in a romantic relationship that had averaged a little less than 2 years. Four self-report measures were administered to each participant: relationship satisfaction (Relationship Assessment Scale; Hen-drick, 1988), self-esteem (Self-Esteem Scale; Rosenberg, 1965), acceptance by partner (modified Level of Regard Scale, Barrett-Lennard, 1964), and need for approval (Demand for Approval Scale; Jones, 1969).

Results provided some modified support for the predication that need for approval would moderate the relationship between self-esteem and relationship satisfaction. One finding was that the general relationship between self-esteem and satisfaction was significant only for those with high need for approval. The main implication of this finding is that the relationship between self-esteem and being in a satisfying and accepting relationship is complex and self-esteem is given a bigger boost in a relationship by those who have the highest need for approval. In other words, Rogers's theory also is perhaps in need of a slight qualification: Need for approval is an important dimension in how much our self-esteem will be raised by being accepted and understood by a romantic partner.

In another related study on relationship satisfaction, Cramer (2003b) investigated whether tlnee Rogerian facilitative conditions of healthy relationships (empathy, positive regard, and congruence) would be associated with greater satisfaction with the relationship. Moreover, Cramer also predicted that these tlnee facilitative conditions would be better predictors of relationship satisfaction than amount of conflict, self-esteem, and demand for approval. Finally, Cramer investigated two more complex questions: First, does the amount of conflict change the relationship (moderate it) between the facilitative conditions and relationship satisfaction? Second, do the facilitative conditions change the relationship between conflict and satisfaction?

Participants were university students currently in a romantic relationship (average length of time approximately 3 years). The measure of relationship satisfaction was a seven-item Relationship Assessment Scale (Hendrick, 1988). Each of the facilitative conditions came from a Rogerian-based measure, a revised Relationship Inventory (Barrett-Lennard, 1964). Example items from the congruency scale were "He or she is openly him/herself in our relationship"; from the empathy scale, "He or she doesn't understand me"; from the level of regard scale, "He or she really values me"; and from the unconditional positive regard scale, "I can be openly critical of him/her without it really affecting his/her feelings toward me." Negative conflict was assessed with the 21-item Differences of Opinion Scale (Cramer, 2002), which measured both the frequency and outcome of disagreements. Example items covered topics of conflict avoidance ("You try to discuss them with him/her"), reseittment ("You don't feel resentment afterwards"), handling evaluation ("You don't react negatively to the way they're handled"), resolutions ("They are resolved for you"), and outcome evaluation ("You are satisfied with the result").

Results showed that each of the four facilitative conditions was positively related to relationship satisfaction, whereas conflict was negatively related to satisfaction. Holding each of the other variables constant, only tlnee variables explained unique variance over and above the others in relationship satisfaction: level of regard,

Chapter 11 Rogers: Person-Centered Theory 333

empathy, and congruence. Although conflict was related to relationship satisfaction, it was not uniquely related: That is, it did not explam any variance over and beyond the facilitative conditions. Once facilitative conditions are held constant, there is no significant association between conflict and relationship satisfaction. Finally, as hi the first study by Cramer (2003a), there was no significant correlation between self-esteem and relationship satisfaction. Cramer concluded: "These findings imply that encouraging or teaching people to be more accepting and understanding of their romantic partner may increase then partner's satisfaction with the relationship more than focushig on how to reduce the negative conflict" (2003b, p. 96). Rogers's focus on empathy, positive regard and congruence as facilitators of happiness seems to garner support from these findings.

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