Attachment styles and relationship quality

attachment styles and relationship quality

Interdependence of attachment styles and relationship quality in parent- adolescent dyads. Chow CM(1), Hart E(2), Ellis L(2), Tan CC(3). Adult Attachment, Romantic Relationships, Relationship Satisfaction, According to attachment theory [1], the quality of early interactions. We examined to what extent attachment style and relationship quality with their main informal carer impact on levels of HRQoL, depression, and anxiety in.

Join us May for an immersive event! However, a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that people can actually start to change their attachment style over time and feel better about their relationships—and it might not be as hard as we think.

In one experiment, 70 heterosexual couples completed surveys about their relationship and then participated in a series of brief activities in the lab. Half of the couples completed activities designed to increase closeness and intimacy: They took turns answering questions about themselves similar to these 36 questionswhich other researchers have found to increase feelings of closeness. They also participated in partner yoga, where they held hands or otherwise connected to create poses.

When Anxious Meets Avoidant — How Attachment Styles Help and Hurt our Relationships

The other half of the couples discussed more impersonal questions and participated in individual yoga. After the intimacy-building exercises, participants with more avoidant attachment styles rated their relationships as higher-quality than they had beforehand.

Meanwhile, participants with more secure or anxious attachment styles did not report increases in relationship satisfaction, nor did the couples who completed the other activities—suggesting that intimacy-building can uniquely benefit people with avoidant attachment. The benefits of connecting through shared activities appeared to be long-lasting, as well: According to a survey of participants one month later, more avoidant participants who had done intimacy-building had actually decreased in attachment avoidance.

According to Hazan and Shaver, the emotional bond that develops between adult romantic partners is partly a function of the same motivational system--the attachment behavioral system--that gives rise to the emotional bond between infants and their caregivers.

Hazan and Shaver noted that the relationship between infants and caregivers and the relationship between adult romantic partners share the following features: Three Implications of Adult Attachment Theory The idea that romantic relationships may be attachment relationships has had a profound influence on modern research on close relationships.

There are at least three critical implications of this idea. First, if adult romantic relationships are attachment relationships, then we should observe the same kinds of individual differences in adult relationships that Ainsworth observed in infant-caregiver relationships.

attachment styles and relationship quality

We may expect some adults, for example, to be secure in their relationships--to feel confident that their partners will be there for them when needed, and open to depending on others and having others depend on them. We should expect other adults, in contrast, to be insecure in their relationships. For example, some insecure adults may be anxious-resistant: Others may be avoidant: Second, if adult romantic relationships are attachment relationships, then the way adult relationships "work" should be similar to the way infant-caregiver relationships work.

In other words, the same kinds of factors that facilitate exploration in children i. The kinds of things that make an attachment figure "desirable" for infants i. In short, individual differences in attachment should influence relational and personal functioning in adulthood in the same way they do in childhood.

Third, whether an adult is secure or insecure in his or her adult relationships may be a partial reflection of his or her experiences with his or her primary caregivers. Bowlby believed that the mental representations or working models i. For example, a secure child tends to believe that others will be there for him or her because previous experiences have led him or her to this conclusion. Once a child has developed such expectations, he or she will tend to seek out relational experiences that are consistent with those expectations and perceive others in a way that is colored by those beliefs.

According to Bowlby, this kind of process should promote continuity in attachment patterns over the life course, although it is possible that a person's attachment pattern will change if his or her relational experiences are inconsistent with his or her expectations.

In short, if we assume that adult relationships are attachment relationships, it is possible that children who are secure as children will grow up to be secure in their romantic relationships. Or, relatedly, that people who are secure as adults in their relationships with their parents will be more likely to forge secure relationships with new partners.

In the sections below I briefly address these three implications in light of early and contemporary research on adult attachment. The earliest research on adult attachment involved studying the association between individual differences in adult attachment and the way people think about their relationships and their memories for what their relationships with their parents are like.

Hazan and Shaver developed a simple questionnaire to measure these individual differences.

attachment styles and relationship quality

These individual differences are often referred to as attachment styles, attachment patterns, attachment orientations, or differences in the organization of the attachment system. In short, Hazan and Shaver asked research subjects to read the three paragraphs listed below, and indicate which paragraph best characterized the way they think, feel, and behave in close relationships: I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them.

I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being. I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me.

attachment styles and relationship quality

I don't worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me.

Can You Cultivate a More Secure Attachment Style?

I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away. Based on this three-category measureHazan and Shaver found that the distribution of categories was similar to that observed in infancy. Although this measure served as a useful way to study the association between attachment styles and relationship functioning, it didn't allow a full test of the hypothesis that the same kinds of individual differences observed in infants might be manifest among adults.

In many ways, the Hazan and Shaver measure assumed this to be true. Subsequent research has explored this hypothesis in a variety of ways. For example, Kelly Brennan and her colleagues collected a number of statements e. Brennan's findings suggested that there are two fundamental dimensions with respect to adult attachment patterns see Figure 2. One critical variable has been labeled attachment-related anxiety. People who score high on this variable tend to worry whether their partner is available, responsive, attentive, etc.

A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research | R. Chris Fraley

People who score on the low end of this variable are more secure in the perceived responsiveness of their partners. The other critical variable is called attachment-related avoidance.

People on the high end of this dimension prefer not to rely on others or open up to others. People on the low end of this dimension are more comfortable being intimate with others and are more secure depending upon and having others depend upon them. A prototypical secure adult is low on both of these dimensions. Brennan's findings are critical because recent analyses of the statistical patterning of behavior among infants in the strange situation reveal two functionally similar dimensions: Functionally, these dimensions are similar to the two-dimensions uncovered among adults, suggesting that similar patterns of attachment exist at different points in the life span.

In light of Brennan's findings, as well as taxometric research published by Fraley and Wallermost researchers currently conceptualize and measure individual differences in attachment dimensionally rather than categorically.

That is, it is assumed that attachment styles are things that vary in degree rather than kind.

Interdependence of attachment styles and relationship quality in parent-adolescent dyads.

There is now an increasing amount of research that suggests that adult romantic relationships function in ways that are similar to infant-caregiver relationships, with some noteworthy exceptions, of course. For example, while separating couples generally showed more attachment behavior than nonseparating couples, highly avoidant adults showed much less attachment behavior than less avoidant adults.

In the sections below I discuss some of the parallels that have been discovered between the way that infant-caregiver relationships and adult romantic relationships function. For obvious reasons there is no similar study asking infants if they would prefer a security-inducing attachment figure. Despite the attractiveness of secure qualities, however, not all adults are paired with secure partners.

Some evidence suggests that people end up in relationships with partners who confirm their existing beliefs about attachment relationships Frazier et al. Secure base and safe haven behavior In infancy, secure infants tend to be the most well adjusted, in the sense that they are relatively resilient, they get along with their peers, and are well liked. Similar kinds of patterns have emerged in research on adult attachment.

Overall, secure adults tend to be more satisfied in their relationships than insecure adults.

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Their relationships are characterized by greater longevity, trust, commitment, and interdependence e. A large proportion of research on adult attachment has been devoted to uncovering the behavioral and psychological mechanisms that promote security and secure base behavior in adults. There have been two major discoveries thus far. First and in accordance with attachment theory, secure adults are more likely than insecure adults to seek support from their partners when distressed.

Furthermore, they are more likely to provide support to their distressed partners e. Second, the attributions that insecure individuals make concerning their partner's behavior during and following relational conflicts exacerbate, rather than alleviate, their insecurities e. Avoidant Attachment and Defense Mechanisms According to attachment theory, children differ in the kinds of strategies they use to regulate attachment-related anxiety.

Following a separation and reunion, for example, some insecure children approach their parents, but with ambivalence and resistance, whereas others withdraw from their parents, apparently minimizing attachment-related feelings and behavior.

One of the big questions in the study of infant attachment is whether children who withdraw from their parents--avoidant children--are truly less distressed or whether their defensive behavior is a cover-up for their true feelings of vulnerability. Research that has measured the attentional capacity of children, heart rate, or stress hormone levels suggests that avoidant children are distressed by the separation despite the fact that they come across in a cool, defensive manner.