Keeping tabs: Attachment anxiety and electronic intrusion in high school dating relationships

Lauren A. Reed, Richard M. Tolman, L. Monique Ward, Paige Safyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Social media have become significant contexts for dating relationships among high school students. These media, which allow for increased visibility of dating partners' information and constant connectivity, may put teens at risk for problematic digital dating behaviors. This study sought to replicate and expand on research with college students to examine the association between attachment insecurity (relationship anxiety and avoidance) and electronic intrusion in high school dating relationships. Electronic intrusion (EI) is the use of social media to intrude into the privacy of a dating partner, monitor a partner's whereabouts and activities, and pressure a partner for constant contact. A survey study of 703 high school girls and boys found that higher levels of attachment anxiety were associated with more frequent perpetration of EI for both girls and boys. Therefore, especially for anxiously attached teens, social media may create a "cycle of anxiety" in which social media serve as both a trigger for relationship anxiety and a tool for partner surveillance in an attempt to alleviate anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-268
Number of pages10
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Attachment
  • Digital dating abuse
  • Electronic aggression
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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