Social comparison and the drive upward revisited: Affiliation as a response to marital stress



To test theoretical ideas derived from classic and recent social comparison theory, two studies examined affiliative tendencies as a response to marital problems among individuals varying in marital dissatisfaction. Study 1 (n. = 632) showed that the higher the degree of marital dissatisfaction and the higher the uncertainty about how things are going in one's marriage, the stronger was the desire for affiliation (operationalized as the desire to talk with others about one's marriage). Moreover, among individuals high in marital dissatisfaction, a preference for upward affiliation was found, i.e. for contact with others having better marriages. Individuals with lower levels of dissatisfaction preferred affiliation with similar others. Women experienced more uncertainty and a stronger affiliative tendency than men. In Study 2 (n = 233), these findings were largely replicated. Moreover, it was shown that the desire to affiliate when facing marital stress was particularly strong among individuals high in interpersonal orientation.