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Abstract

Rejection sensitivity is the disposition to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and intensely react to rejection by significant others. A model of the role of this disposition in male violence toward romantic partners is proposed. Specifically, it is proposed that rejection sensitivity is a vulnerability factor for two distinct maladaptive styles of coping with intimate relationships. Rejection-sensitive men may attempt to prevent anticipated rejection by reducing their investment in intimate relationships. Alternatively, they may become highly invested in intimate relationships in search of an unconditionally supportive partner. Their low threshold for perceiving and overreacting to rejection, however, heightens their risk of responding aggressively to their partners’negative or ambiguous behavior. Cross-sectional data from 217 male college students supported predictions derived from the model. Among college men who reported relatively high investment in romantic relationships, anxious expectations of rejection predicted dating violence. Among men who reported relatively low investment in romantic relationships, anxious expectations of rejection predicted reduced involvement in discretionary close relationships with friends and romantic partners and, more generally, increased distress in and avoidance of social situations.