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My SSHRC grant continues to support my research on commitment in close relationships. We have found that a key motivational basis of commitment is identification—that is, the extent to which the relationship becomes part of one’s identity. Our work on identification is advancing on two fronts. First, we are developing implicit measures of identification that will reveal how relationship motives can influence relationship processes in effortless, efficient ways, which is particularly relevant in real world contexts when individuals are tired, distracted or under time pressure—all contextual factors that inhibit the ability of explicit, consciously controlled processes to operate effectively. Second, we are examining identification in conjunction with intrinsic motivation—being in a relationship for the sheer enjoyment of it. The long term goal is to develop a dual-process model of relationship regulation whereby intrinsic and identified motives work in tandem to fuel satisfying and lasting relationships.

My second line of research, supported by FQRSC, is based on attachment theory. Currently, we are examining how attachment anxiety manifests in facial displays in initial interpersonal interactions and how that can undermine relationship formation. We have been conducting controlled lab experiments, facial coding studies, and field studies of speed dating to test our hypotheses. We are also examining the ambivalence of anxiously attached individuals in the context of social dilemmas such as Prisoner’s Dilemma situations. Initial findings indicate that anxiously attached individuals are less likely to cooperate and are more hesitant to act, especially in situations in which trust is important. Subsequently, we cognitively primed attachment security and found that this ameliorates the negative effects of attachment anxiety in social dilemmas.

My third line of research, supported by CIHR and the March of Dimes, is highly interdisciplinary and allows me to examine the effects of personal resilience and interpersonal resources on the well-being of mothers and their infants in the context of a full biopsychosocial model. A subset of women from the Montreal Prematurity Study were recruited and enrolled in the New Mothers Study (N = 553). Women who had infants born with significant health problems were targeted for recruitment and overrepresented in the sample, providing a prospective study of women’s responses to a stressful life event. Initial analyses have revealed that maternal felt security and pregnancy commitment serve as protective factors against post-partum increases in depression. In the Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability, and Neurodevelopment (MAVAN) Project, which utilizes data from the Prematurity and New Mothers Studies, my role is to operationalize maternal adversity and identify potential moderators of the effects of maternal adversity on the cognitive and emotional development of children born small for gestational age and assessed at 6, 12, 18, 24 and 36 months of age.