Newswise — What constitutes good relationship quality in times of crisis

Relationships are crucial for our health and well-being. But which factors help to sustain a satisfying relationship, and can we predict which relationships make it through a crisis? An international team led by Stephanie Eder of the University of Vienna set out to investigate these questions during a time when ‘hard lockdowns’ were introduced throughout Europe. The result: Secure attachment styles are particularly important for having a satisfactory relationship during the lockdowns. The results of their study have now been published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Are there specific variables determining which relationships make it through times of crisis?
Researchers led by Stephanie Eder from the University of Vienna set out to answer this question during the COVID-19 pandemic. 313 participants who were in a romantic relationship repeatedly completed questionnaires during the "first wave" of the COVID-19 pandemic. They filled in questionnaires assessing psychological characteristics, and answered questions with regards to their relationship and how the pandemic had affected their lives. Using machine-learning algorithms, the researchers identified predictors of having a high relationship quality during this time. So: What constitutes a "good" relationship during a lockdown?

The most important predictor was the so-called "Attachment style": Participants with a “secure” attachment tend to have a higher relationship quality than those with "anxious" or "avoidant" attachment styles. This psychological predictor by far trumps external factors. However, predicting changes in relationship quality over the course of the lockdowns is harder, where the researchers could not identify predictive variables.
The results of this study highlight the role of attachment style even in adult relationships. The study is the first to show the role of attachment style for romantic relationship quality during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication in "Frontiers in Psychology":
Eder, S. J., Nicholson, A., Stefanczyk M., Pieniak, M., Martínez-Molina, J., Pešout Ondra, Binter, J., Smela, P., Scharnowski, F., Steyrl, D. (2021). Securing Your Relationship: Quality of Intimate Relationships During the COVID-19 Pandemic Can Be Predicted by Attachment Style. In: Frontiers in Psychology (12); DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.647956

Related studies on psychological aspects of the pandemic via the "Open Science Framework":
Eder, S. J., Stefańczyk, M., Pieniak, M., Molina, J. M., Pešout, O., Binter, J., … Nicholson, A. (2021). Predicting interpersonal dynamics during the COVID-19 pandemic using machine learning: A cross-national longitudinal study. Verfügbar unter:

Journal Link: Frontiers in Psychology