Category: X - Other - Not Fitting Better Elsewhere
Previous research has shown a significant relationship between daily difficulties in different domains—e.g., work and family—and negative affect (e.g., Frone, Barnes & Farrell, 1994), especially in younger populations (e.g., Mroczek & Almeida, 2004). Good relationships may buffer responses to these difficulties (Cohen & Wills, 1985). In this context exchange orientation, a potentially relevant quality of relationships, has not yet been studied. Those ‘exchange oriented’ in relationships are strongly concerned with direct reciprocity. They expect to receive comparable benefits from others when they have provided benefits for them, and feel an obligation to reciprocate when they receive something (Clark & Mills, 2011). This may be important in the context of negative events, as exchange orientation might limit satisfaction with relationships (Buunk, Doosje, Jans & Hopstaken, 1993). Thus, the present research explores whether exchange orientation moderates the relationship between daily difficulties and negative affect.
As part of a larger study, 97 college students completed initial assessments of affect (PANAS; Watson et al. 1988) and exchange orientation (EOS; Mills & Clark, 1994). For two weeks, they then completed daily diaries in which they reported, among other variables, how bothered they felt by daily stressful events (e.g., “someone was displeased with you”, “you did poorly on an academic task”). They then returned for a final assessment that included the PANAS, among other measures. Eighty-five participants completed both at least 4 diaries and the PANAS at the follow-up and were thus included in the final analysis.
After controlling for negative affect at the beginning of the study, those who felt more bothered by daily difficulties had higher levels of negative affect at the end of the study (β = .025, t(82) = 2.47, p = .016). Exchange orientation moderated this effect (β = .003, t(80) = 2.18, p = .032). Those who were higher in exchange orientation were more affected by being bothered by daily stressful events.
These findings suggest that there may be an emotional cost of being more exchange oriented in interpersonal relationships when difficulties arise. Perhaps experiencing difficulties reduces one’s sense of self-worth. As a result, those higher in exchange orientation may perceive their relationships as less secure since they have less value to exchange. Another possibility is that, when facing interpersonal conflicts, they may feel that the relationship is inequitable. This may trigger negative emotions in addition to those regarding the conflict itself. Further research should examine the underlying mechanisms of the impact of exchange orientation on negative affect, given the relevance of the latter in the clinical setting.