Romantic Partners’ Responsiveness During Uncertainty


The article by Dooley, Sweeny, Howell, and Reynolds (2018) focuses on the issue of partners’ responsiveness during a period of stressful uncertainty. Scholars remark that in the age of massive data availability, there are pieces of information that people sometimes have to wait for a long time. Such occasions may include medical test results, crucial exam outcomes, or job application resolutions. In each of these cases, according to Dooley et al. (2018), individuals may feel apprehension and excessive fear since expecting uncertain news is reported to be an anxiety-generating experience.

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During their analysis, scholars have noticed that perceived responsiveness (PR) has the potential to promote subjective coping and positive thinking, as well as to enhance sleep patterns. The review of literature offers insights into the investigated topic. Particularly, Dooley et al. (2018) have found that waiting for uncertain news is even more aggravating than hearing bad news. PR is viewed as a “supportive network” to which people resort in case of a stressful situation, which leads to improvements in both physical and mental health (Dooley et al., 2018, p. 678).

In their longitudinal study, authors enrolled 184 law students waiting for the results of their bar exam. The questions that Dooley et al. (2018) attempted to answer are concerned with the variability of PR, its relation to health, and its connection with expectation management strategies. The results indicate that there are “temporal patterns” in PR, it being the strongest at the start and the end of the waiting period (Dooley et al., 2018, p. 683).

Scholars have identified the following aspects of future research: partners’ experiences of providing support, benefits for support-providers, and the role of PR in improving sleep patterns. Also, Dooley et al. (2018) consider it relevant to analyze the role of PR in bolstering individuals’ stress-coping mechanisms.

Critical Reaction

The article by Dooley et al. (2018) is logically structured and allows the reader to follow the authors’ arguments without difficulty. Scholars have outlined their research questions and reiterated them in the body of the paper so that the audience could easily follow the structure. However, there is no clear hypothesis in the study: Dooley et al. (2018) acknowledge that they do not have a clear hypothesis as to how individuals’ health can predict their understanding of responsiveness. Furthermore, the authors also admit that they lack a firm hypothesis on PR’s effect on people’s construction of expectation coping strategies.

Dooley et al. (2018) have identified health and well-being as their variables, but they offer no clear explanation of whether they are dependent or independent. It is likely to assume that PR is a dependent variable, and health and well-being are independent ones. Still, the authors offer clear operational definitions of the key terms, which makes it easier for the reader to perceive their research endeavors.

The subject population is highly relevant since the results of a bar exam are crucial for law students whose future career is contingent on them. The duration of waiting – 4 months – is suitable for the study since it allows establishing the presence or absence of certain PR and its intensity at different periods. Statistical tests used by Dooley et al. (2018) are appropriate for the data they have collected. The results are represented in a table, which makes it easier to follow the authors’ analyses and findings.

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The most productive outcomes involve the identification of temporal patterns in partners’ responsiveness and the explanation of correlations between PR, well-being, and health. In the discussion section, Dooley et al. (2018) make a fair point by discussing the limitations of their research and pointing out the issues that are viable to investigate in the future. Generally, the study is a valuable source for those interested in understanding the effects of PR.


Dooley, M. K., Sweeny, K., Howell, J., & Reynolds, C. A. (2018). Perceptions of romantic partners’ responsiveness during a period of stressful uncertainty. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(4), 677-687.

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