Settling for less out of fear of being single

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Dec;105(6):1049-1073. doi: 10.1037/a0034628. Epub 2013 Oct 14.


The present research demonstrates that fear of being single predicts settling for less in romantic relationships, even accounting for constructs typically examined in relationship research such as anxious attachment. Study 1 explored the content of people's thoughts about being single. Studies 2A and 2B involved the development and validation of the Fear of Being Single Scale. Study 2C provided preliminary support for the hypothesis that fear of being single predicts settling for less in ongoing relationships, as evidenced by greater dependence in unsatisfying relationships. Study 3 replicated this effect in a longitudinal study demonstrating that fear of being single predicts lower likelihood of initiating the dissolution of a less satisfying relationship. Studies 4A and 4B explored the predictive ability of fear of being single for self-reported dating standards. Across both samples, fear of being single was unrelated to self-reported standards for a mate, with the exception of consistently higher standards for parenting. Studies 5 and 6 explored romantic interest in targets that were manipulated to vary in responsiveness and physical attractiveness. These studies found that fear of being single consistently predicted romantic interest in less responsive and less attractive dating targets. Study 7 explored fear of being single during a speed-dating event. We found that fear of being single predicted being less selective in expressing romantic interest but did not predict other daters' romantic interest. Taken together, the present research suggests that fear of being single is a meaningful predictor of settling for less in relationships.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Love
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Sex Factors
  • Single Person / psychology*
  • Social Desirability
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult