Self-expansion Motivated Goal Pursuit in Relational and Non-relational Domains for Individuals with Different Attachment Styles

Date of Award

June 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Leonard S. Newman


Attachment, Goal pursuit, Motivation, Relationship, Self, Self-expansion

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The self-expansion model proposes that human beings possess a fundamental motive to expand themselves by incorporating new resources, experiences, identities, and perspectives. Traditionally, the self-expansion model has focused on relationships as a major way to achieve self-expansion, although researchers have also pointed out the possibility that other non-relational activities, such as work and travel, could similarly lead to self-expansion. Study 1 examined whether an important individual difference, i.e. attachment styles, moderated people&;#8217;s preferences for relational or non-relational route to self-expansion. One major finding was that avoidance was negatively associated with people’s residual preference for relational over non-relational expansion, a phenomenon that was mediated by the desire for relationships. Given the universality of relationships, Studies 2 and 3 focused on how individuals with different attachment styles achieved self-expansion within a relationship context as function of the role one’s relationship partner may have played. In Study 2, it was found that for individuals high in avoidance, thinking of the partner as facilitative towards one’s personal goals, rather than relationship goals, led to an increased sense of self-expansion through the relationship, although the type of goal the partner facilitated did not influence the perceived self-expansion of individuals high in anxiety. Study 3 revealed that thinking of the partner as facilitative or non-facilitative towards personal goals did not impact perceived self-expansion through the relationship for individuals high in avoidance or anxiety. This research project makes important theoretical contributions by directly integrating traditional segregated literatures of self-expansion, attachment styles, and goal pursuit. It provides implications for the dynamic ways in which people satisfy the fundamental self-expansion motivation.


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