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Contributors:
  1. Amy Smith Slep
  2. Richard Heyman

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Description: Past research on the relation between hostility in intimate relationships and adiposity has yielded mixed findings. The present study investigated whether the association between relationship hostility and adiposity is moderated by people’s biological reactions to couple conflict. Cohabiting adult couples (N = 117 couples) engaged in two conflict interactions, before and after which salivary cortisol levels were measured. Results revealed an association between relationship hostility and adiposity, but this association was concentrated among people with relatively low levels of cortisol reactivity to couple conflict. Results are interpreted in light of research demonstrating that cortisol reactivity can become blunted over time in response to repeated stressors. These results provide precision to etiological models of obesity by identifying cortisol reactivity as a factor that moderates the association between relationship hostility and adiposity.

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