The waxing and waning of relational intimacy: Touch as a function of relational stage, gender and touch avoidance

Laura Guerrero, Peter A. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Scopus citations


Scholars have paid increasing attention to the role of non-verbal communication within intimate relationships. Reportedly, immediate behaviors such as touch escalate opposite-sex relationships by promoting increased intimacy and psychological closeness. This study examined the effects of relational stage, gender and touch avoidance on unobtrusively coded public touch behavior. An ANOVA indicated that relational stage was curvilinearly related to public interpersonal touch such that the level of touch was higher in intermediate stage of relationships than in either initial or stable stages. Gender had no effect on touch. Instead, a high correlation was found between the amount of touch used by males and the amount of touch used by their female partners. Touch avoidance was found to be linearly related to the amount of touch displayed, with low touch avoiders touching the most and high touch avoiders touching the least. There was a strong additive effect for touch avoidance, with all three touch avoidance groups following a curvilinear pattern for relational stage. x2 tests found that touch increased primarily in the hand and waist areas during the intermediate stage. Implications for the study of reciprocity, immediacy, intimacy and stage theory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-165
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Psychology

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