An observational and experimental examination of responses to the disclosure of stressful life experiences in real time
Foynes, Melissa Ming, 1982-
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Foynes, Melissa Ming, 1982-
This dissertation involves two studies investigating the disclosure of life experiences in the context of real relationships in real time. Study 1 included 126 university students and community members. Pairs of participants who had known each other for at least three months were eligible. After participants completed a set of self- report measures, one member of the pair was randomly selected to disclose an experience he/she had not previously disclosed to the other member of the pair. A final set of self- report measures was then completed by each participant. The interaction was videotaped for coding and analyses. Using the coders' and disclosers' ratings of listeners' behaviors, we examined the impact of both verbal and nonverbal responses to disclosure and identified two modifiable behaviors (interruptions and posture) that contributed to conveying support. Results indicated that leaning backward was associated with more negative responses to disclosure and moderate levels of interruption were associated with more supportive responses to disclosure. Study 2 involved similar recruitment procedures to Study 1 and included 220 university students and community members. Pairs of participants were randomly assigned to an experimental or control condition and researchers were blind to condition. After completing a series of self-report questionnaires, the person randomly assigned to the discloser role was asked to describe an experience of mistreatment not previously disclosed to the other participant. This interaction was videotaped. Following this, participants completed post-disclosure questionnaires Then, psychoeducational materials regarding either healthy lifestyle improvements (control condition) or supportive listening techniques (experimental condition) were distributed, followed by a quiz on these materials. A second experience of mistreatment was disclosed and a final set of post-disclosure questionnaires was completed. Results indicated that the psychoeducational materials were effective in enhancing supportive responses to disclosure such that listeners in the experimental condition demonstrated significantly fewer unsupportive behaviors than listeners in the control condition. Listeners who started with high levels of unsupportive behaviors benefitted the most from the psychoeducational materials. Although there are several limitations of these studies and additional research with more diverse samples is needed, the findings represent an important preliminary step in research.