Volatility in daily relationship quality: The roles of attachment and gender

Ashley N. Cooper, Casey J. Totenhagen, Brandon T. McDaniel, Melissa A. Curran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Previous research on attachment orientations has focused on how attachment is associated with levels of relationship quality; however, the nature of associations with variability over time (volatility) on relationship quality remains unclear. Couples who are higher in volatility have poorer relationship outcomes, thus it is important to understand factors that influence volatility. We used 7-day daily diaries with both members of 157 heterosexual couples to analyze associations between actor and partner reports of attachment anxiety and avoidance and gender in associations with both general levels of relationship quality and volatility in daily relationship quality. Overall, we found that regardless of gender, attachment avoidance was linked with decreased levels of relationship quality for both actors and partners. Gender differences in volatility of daily relationship quality emerged such that women’s attachment influenced both their own and their male partner’s volatility. Women’s attachment anxiety was positively associated with volatility for both their own and their partner’s relationship quality. Women’s attachment avoidance was also negatively associated with volatility in their partner’s relationship quality. We discuss how attachment avoidance is a greater predictor for average levels of daily relationship quality, whereas attachment anxiety drives volatility in daily feelings about the relationship. Further, conflict is an important factor to consider in these links between attachment anxiety and volatility in relationship quality; on days when individuals reported greater conflict than usual, they reported lower relationship quality, and this association was stronger for those whose partners were high in attachment anxiety. We explore implications for research and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-371
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • APIM
  • attachment
  • daily diary
  • intraindividual variability
  • relationship quality
  • volatility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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