Factors associated with distress following the breakup of a close relationship

Susan Sprecher, Diane Felmlee, Sandra Metts, Beverley Fehr, Debra Vanni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

98 Scopus citations


The purpose of this investigation was to identify the factors associated with the distress experienced after the breakup of a romantic relationship, both at the time of the breakup (assessed retrospectively) and at the time the questionnaire was completed. Four categories of variables were examined as possible correlates of post-breakup distress: variables associated with the initiation of the relationship, characteristics of the relationship while it was intact, conditions at the time of the breakup and individual difference variables. The sample consisted of 257 young adults (primarily college students; 83 male and 174 female) who had experienced a recent breakup (M = 21 weeks since breakup). The variables most highly associated with distress at the time of the breakup were non-mutuality in alternatives (i.e. partner having more interest in alternatives), commitment, satisfaction, greater effort in relationship initiation, being 'left' by the other and fearful attachment style. The variables most highly associated with current distress were commitment, duration of the relationship, fearful attachment style, dismissing attachment style and time since breakup.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-809
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1998


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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

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