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Social functions of parasocial relationships

1 January 2015


The present study explored functions of parasocial relationships by examining associations between parasocial and embodied relationship strength, belongingness need-satisfaction, media usage, and attachment. Two theories of parasocial relationship functions, the complementary function and the compensatory function, were compared. Participants were 108 respondents to an online survey which included measures of relationship strength in a parasocial and an embodied relationship, relatedness need-satisfaction, attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, and media usage variables. Results indicated a significant negative correlation between relatedness need-satisfaction and parasocial relationship strength. Overall closeness with friends and overall closeness with media figures were positively related to each other. Greater attachment avoidance was associated with weaker embodied relationships and less overall friend closeness, while attachment anxiety was positively associated with greater overall closeness to media figures. These findings suggest that parasocial relationships may serve both complementary and compensatory functions, with the function served being moderated by other factors such as attachment style.


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