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Approach and avoidance relationship goals and couples’ nonverbal communication during conflict

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


--- - |2 Abstract Approach relationship goals are pursued in order to achieve desirable outcomes, whereas avoidance relationship goals are pursued to prevent undesirable outcomes in relationships. We investigated how partners’ approach and avoidance relationship goals are related to their nonverbal communication during conflict. A sequential analysis of observational data from 365 couples (28,470 observations) revealed that individuals with more (vs. fewer) approach goals displayed more positive involvement (e.g., head nods, smiles) and less avoidant withdrawal (e.g., shaking head, folded arms). The reverse pattern emerged for avoidance goals. Furthermore, women (but not men) matched their partner's positive involvement to a greater extent the more approach goals and the fewer avoidance goals they pursued. In contrast, approach/avoidance relationship goals were not associated with how much individuals matched their partner's avoidant withdrawal. Results suggest that relationship goals are related to partners’ nonverbal communication and the extent to which women match their partner's positive involvement during conflict. - European Journal of Social Psychology, EarlyView.