Mitchell, Alexandra Elizabeth (2003-05). The effect of self-disclosure and empathic responding on intimacy: testing an interpersonal process model of intimacy using an observational coding system. Master's Thesis.
Intimacy is an important component of romantic relationships and a lack of intimacy is one of the most common presenting problems of distressed couples, but the process through which intimacy develops is not well understood. This study examined the evidence for the interpersonal process model of intimacy described by Reis and Shaver (1988), which proposes that self-disclosure and empathic responding are the basis of intimate interactions. The sample consisted of 108 community couples who completed measures of intimacy after having videotaped discussions about relationship injuries that occurred both within and outside of the relationship. The Couples' Intimate Behavior Coding System (CIB) was developed to assess depth of factual, emotional, and cognitive self-disclosure and components of empathic responding in these discussions. Results indicate that males' own disclosure and empathic responding predicted their feelings of intimacy, whereas females' intimacy was predicted by their partner's disclosure and empathic responding. The effects of both self- and partner-disclosure appear to have been driven by factual and emotional components of disclosure. These results provide preliminary evidence that self-disclosure and empathic responding are important behaviors in the development of intimate feelings for both men and women, but the manner in which these behaviors influence intimacy differs by gender.