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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Study to find post breakup impacts

Two UA researchers are looking to find out what happens when young love ends.

Lauren Lee, a clinical psychology graduate student, and David Sbarra, associate professor of psychology and director of clinical training, are working on a study to understand how young adults cope with a breakup and how contact with an ex-partner and various support systems may alter their post-relationship lives.

To conduct the study, Lee and Sbarra are recruiting young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who were in a romantic relationship for more than six months that ended less than six months ago. Participants are asked to answer five assessment questionnaires over the course of five weeks, which will take them a total of two hours to complete.

In 2005, Sbarra completed a study that looked at how continued contact with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend can stall the individual’s emotional progress and alter his or her feelings toward love. Lee’s current study is looking to answer why contact with an ex may affect coping with a breakup.
“You continue to go to coffee with them, you continue to go to club meetings with them, you continue to have sex with them … all of these things are associated with worse adjustment long term,” Lee said.

The study focuses on getting over a relationship while keeping in touch with an ex and talking to them in person or through social media.

“What we’re hypothesizing is through these social networking sites, even though it’s not formal contact … I do get to see what’s happening in my ex’s life,” Lee said. “And so I get to watch them sort of detach from me in many ways.”

Though keeping an ex as a Facebook friend makes contact inevitable, sometimes deleting them doesn’t entirely cut out contact due to mutual friends. Changing a relationship status on Facebook also plays a role for someone getting over a breakup.

“Once my relationship status went to ‘single’ my phone blew up,” said Tracy Reyes, a sociology junior.

“It’s not like a relationship between just you and your partner.” Social media allows “everybody else on Facebook” to be in the relationship too, she added.

The second part of the study focuses on how family or friends can aid or hinder coping with a breakup. The study looks to figure out what behaviors specifically help the most from social support, and which behaviors aren’t as effective.

“My friends think bashing him is making me feel better, but it doesn’t,” Reyes said.

Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, Sbarra and Lee intend to publish the results once the study is closed in December 2012. Participants who are psychology majors are compensated for their time by earning four experimental credits and $10. Those who don’t study psychology can earn up to $30 if they complete the full five-week assessment.

“Now, of course we can’t randomly assign people to stalk their ex-partners on Facebook,” Sbarra said. “But because we have this repeated measurement design, we can actually say, ‘When you do this, you feel worse in the future given where you feel now.’”

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