Emerging research has suggested that appearance-related factors, such as greater appearance orientation, are associated with dating anxiety in emerging adults, but much more could be done to understand mechanistic pathways and potential buffers. Here, we tested a moderated mediation model in which appearance-based rejection sensitivity and social physique anxiety were explored as mediators, and self-compassion was explored as a moderator, of the relationship between appearance orientation and dating anxiety. A total of 501 heterosexual emerging adults (248 women, 253 men) from the UK completed instruments measuring the aforementioned constructs. Relationships among all variables were largely similar across women and men, with only the association between social physique anxiety and appearance-based rejection sensitivity being significantly stronger in women. Mediation analysis in the total sample indicated that both social physique anxiety and appearance-based rejection anxiety were significant mediators. Additionally, we confirmed a serial mediation involving appearance orientation → appearance-based rejection sensitivity → social physique anxiety → dating anxiety. Conversely, self-compassion did not moderate the effects of either social physique anxiety or appearance-based rejection sensitivity on dating anxiety, although greater self-compassion was moderately associated lower dating anxiety. We suggest ways in which existing interventions aimed at reducing dating anxiety could be combined with body image interventions to reduce dating anxiety in heterosocial contexts.
- Self Concept
- Body Image