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I (Don’t) Want 2 B w/ U: Texting, Sexting, and Avoidant Attachment

We’ve written a lot about avoidant attachment (see here and here for more on attachment), but here’s a quick summary: Those who are high in avoidance tend to be uncomfortable with intimacy, want less closeness in their relationships, and distrust others more. And when it comes to electronic communication with partners, it turns out that avoidance also is related texting and sexting behaviors, but in different ways. 

In a study1 of nearly 750 college students who reported on a current or recent romantic relationship, 75% of people said they send text messages to their partner “often” or “very often”; only 2% had never texted with a partner. When it came to sexting (i.e., sending sexual text messages), 33% said they “never” sexted with their partners, which means that 67% had sexted at least once. Similarly, 46% said they never sent sexually explicit pictures or videos to their partners, whereas 54% had done it at least once.

Not surprisingly, those who were higher on avoidance tended to text their partners less. This makes sense because avoidant people usually feel less close to their partners and are sensitive about becoming too close to the partner for fear of getting hurt, so they wouldn’t put much effort into communicating with their partner via text.

But things get interesting when it comes to the link sexting and attachment avoidance: People high in avoidance, and especially men who are high in avoidance, send more sext messages and sexually explicit pictures and videos than those who are less avoidant. Why is that? The authors suggest that that sexting is a way of avoiding emotional intimacy or as a substitute for other forms of “in person” closeness and intimacy that make them uncomfortable.

In short, if you’re with an avoidant person, they might not text you much. But when they do send messages, they are more likely to be sexual...Better make sure that SnapChat account is active.

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1Drouin, M. & Landgraff, C. (2012). Texting, sexting, and attachment in college students’ romantic relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 444-449. 

Dr. Benjamin Le - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV

Dr. Le's research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships.

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Reader Comments (2)

I am doing a research paper on sexting and its effect(s) on today's youth. Do you happen to know where this study was conducted among the 750 college students?

April 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTaylor Nelson

The paper says "medium-sized university in the midwestern United States" and the authors' institutional affiliation is Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, which fits that description.

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