Directed Studies and Honours Projects

Former Honours Projects

"First Impressions: Self-Disclosure and Attachment Insecurity as Predictors of Attraction in a Speed Dating Study".

Abigail L. Falk

   Supervisor: Dr. Rebecca J. Cobb

The first conversation between strangers can determine whether a romantic connection develops, and self-disclosure is an important mechanism to build intimacy (Reis & Shaver, 1988) that may foster attraction. People generally like others who share meaningful information about themselves (Collins & Miller, 1994). However, the personal characteristics of the person disclosing likely plays a role in whether amount of disclosures relates to attraction. Disclosures made by individuals high on attachment anxiety may come across as clingy and disclosures made by those high on avoidance may seem shallow. Attachment security of partners may also matter; those high on anxiety may enjoy high levels of disclosure, whereas partners high on avoidance may prefer lower levels of disclosure. Participants (N = 82) completed baseline questionnaires on attachment security and then later engaged in a series of four-minute speed-dates with five to ten strangers and rated each date on amount of disclosure and attractiveness. Men’s disclosure positively predicted women’s attraction, suggesting that women’s attraction may be fostered by disclosure; men’s attachment anxiety and avoidance were unrelated to women’s attraction. Women’s attachment anxiety, but not disclosure, positively predicted men’s attraction. This suggests that attachment anxiety may prompt women to engage in behaviours that may be desirable to men. Individuals and partners’ attachment anxiety and avoidance did not moderate the role of amount of self-disclosure on attraction. However, self-disclosure and attachment insecurity may have important roles in initial attraction. 

Download Poster PDF: WPA Poster

Or watch Abigail's WPA Poster Presentation here!


"Longitudinal Associations Between Masturbation Frequency and Quality of Partnered Sexual Activity in Husbands and Wives".

Alexandra K. S. Zokol

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Rebecca J. Cobb

Secondary Supervisor: Dr. Alexander L. Chapman


I examined how masturbation frequency and quality of partnered sex (i.e. sexual satisfaction and sexual activity frequency) predicted one another over six months in couples (= 177 husbands and = 181 wives).  Regression analyses indicated that for husbands, sexual satisfaction negatively predicted masturbation frequency over time.  Further, sexual satisfaction mediated the negative association between sexual activity frequency and masturbation frequency for husbands, concurrently and over time.  For wives, sexual quality variables did not predict changes in masturbation frequency and masturbation frequency did not predict changes in sexual quality.  Thus, at least for husbands, masturbation appears to play a compensatory role, such that husbands masturbate more frequently as their sexual satisfaction (and frequency) declines.  For wives, masturbation and partnered sexual activity function independently.  Of importance, these results do not support the notion that masturbation leads to dissatisfaction or declines in frequency of partnered sex; however, frequent masturbation may indicate sexual dissatisfaction for husbands.

Keywords: masturbation; sexual activity; sexual satisfaction; longitudinal; couples


"Newlywed Couples’ Communication as Moderator of the Association Between Sexual and Marital Satisfaction".

Mathew R. Gendron

Claire deBruyn

  Supervisor: Dr. Rebecca J. Cobb


Good communication moderates the negative effects of sexual dissatisfaction on marital satisfaction cross-sectionally (Litzinger & Gordon, 2005).  However, this association has yet to be examined longitudinally or with observed versus self-reported communication quality.  We examined whether observed communication in support discussions moderated the association between sexual and marital satisfaction in 74 ethnically diverse newlywed couples who completed questionnaires assessing marital satisfaction (Quality of Marriage Index, Norton, 1983) and sexual satisfaction (single item) at three months of marriage (T1) and six months later (T2).  Couples also participated in two videotaped 7-minute discussions of a current non-relationship problem at T1.  Quality of their communication (i.e., positive, negative behavior) was rated using a global rating system adapted from the Social Support Interaction Coding System (Pasch & Bradbury, 1998).  Regression analyses indicated that T1 sexual satisfaction and communication did not independently predict changes in marital satisfaction over 6 months for husbands or wives.  However, there was an interaction such that wives’ positive communication during the support discussion buffered negative effects of husbands’ sexual dissatisfaction on changes in husbands’ marital satisfaction over six months (R-squared change = .042, Beta = -.205, p = .020).  In other words, the association between sexual dissatisfaction and declines in marital satisfaction over six months was weaker when wives demonstrated more positive communication such as offering helpful advice or suggestions about how to handle the problem, discussing strategies to manage anxiety or other negative emotions, or asking constructive questions.  These results provides support for the hypothesis that, at least for husbands, having wives who communicate effectively when husbands require support can compensate for sexual dissatisfaction in terms of changes in marital satisfaction.  This suggests that supportive discussions elicit feelings of intimacy, which can compensate for deficits in sexual intimacy, thereby bolstering overall marital quality longitudinally.


"Associations Among Sex, Femininity and Masculinity, and Attitudes About Gendered Division of Household Labour".

Marissa Bowsfield

  Supervisor: Dr. Rebecca J. Cobb

There is a high level of consensus among gender and relationship researchers that women in heterosexual partnerships, despite being more educated and more involved in the workforce than ever before, are still completing the vast majority of work within the home. We expected that women with higher femininity and men with higher masculinity would report more traditional beliefs about gender roles within the home than women lower on femininity and men lower on masculinity. We also expected that if women were high-income earners or highly educated, they would be more likely to endorse a traditional gendered division of labour in the home if they were also high in femininity as a way to reaffirm expectations about their gender role. Likewise, for men, we expected that masculinity and endorsement of traditional gender roles would be associated more so for men who had relatively lower income and education compared to those with higher education and income. To test these predictions, 349 participants (230 women, 119 men) completed a 30-minute online survey called “21st Century Relationships: Who Should Do What?” The survey included measures of femininity, masculinity, beliefs about division of labour in the home, gender role attitudes, income, and education. The majority of the participants were students (87.4%) with the remainder were from the general community (12.6%). In contrast to our first prediction, women’s femininity and men’s masculinity were generally not related to their beliefs about gender roles in the home. Some interesting findings emerged in regards to the second prediction. For women whose income or education was high, femininity predicted less traditional beliefs about roles in the home. This was not consistent with our original prediction, but may suggest that income and education serve to reduce the effect of femininity on traditional beliefs about roles in the home for women. For men, the findings were consistent with our expectations: For men whose income or education was low, masculinity predicted more traditional beliefs about roles in the home. This suggests that men who do not fulfill the societal expectation of being an educated income earner may endorse traditional roles within the home in an effort to neutralize their gender inconsistent role. 

Download PDF: Household Division of Labour Study