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Conceptualization and assessment of disengagement in romantic relationships


  • Grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CCR721682 and CE721682), National Institute for Child and Human Development (HD046789), and the University of Iowa to Erika Lawrence supported, in part, the collection of these data. The authors thank Erin Adams, Ashley Anderson, Katie Barnett, Sara Boeding, Rebecca Brock, Mali Bunde, Jill Buchheit, Katherine Conlon Fasselius, Jodi Dey, Christina Dowd, Emily Georgia, Dailah Hall, Emma Heetland, David Hoak, Jeung Eun Yoon, Matt Kishinami, Jordan Koster, Deb Moore-Henecke, Ashley Pederson, Luke Peterson, Polly Peterson, Ashley Rink, Eunyoe Ro, Heidi Schwab, Jodi Siebrecht, Abby Waltz, Shaun Wilkinson, and Nai-Jin Yang for their assistance with data collection; and John Harvey and David Watson for their feedback on earlier drafts of this article. Robin Barry presented portions of this research at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (Philadelphia, November 2007).

Robin A. Barry, University of Iowa, Department of Psychology, East 11 Seashore Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1407, e-mail:


Research examining relationship distress and dissolution highlights the importance of romantic disengagement. Nevertheless, prior conceptualizations and measures of romantic disengagement have tended to combine disengagement with related but distinct constructs hindering the study of romantic disengagement. The present research used exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses to clarify the conceptualization of romantic disengagement and to develop a novel measure—the Romantic Disengagement Scale (RDS). The RDS demonstrated adequate fit across samples of dating individuals (n = 203), married couples (n = 77), and women in physically aggressive relationships (n = 42) from the Midwestern United States. The RDS also demonstrated strong divergent and incremental validity. The discussion focuses on implications for enhancing conceptual models, research methodology, and clinical interventions.