monday morning survey: what's your attachment style?

In the world of research, there's this theory called attachment theory by John Bowlby. It's well-supported and widely used to explain human interaction in a variety of situations. The theory claims that individuals have an innate desire to form attachments to others, so that they may feel secure and safe (Bowlby, 1969; 1973). Everybody has this need, although some people are more determined than others to become attached. The first attachment bond that is formed is usually between very young children and their primary caregivers (usually one or both of their parents). The attachment bonds that we have with our parents develop into attachment styles that we carry with us throughout our lives. These attachment styles influence how we interact and form relationships with others in childhood through adulthood (Bretherton & Munholland, 1999).

The theory was originally developed to explain an infant's response to separation from his or her primary caregiver (Bowlby, 1969). So, the only time that researchers used to measure one's attachment style was in early childhood. Later, researchers developed ways to measure attachment styles in adolescent-parent relationships, adult child-adult parent relationships, and adult-adult romantic relationships.

How do children form attachments?
In infancy, babies want to be close to their primary caregivers in everyday interactions and especially in situations where they feel distressed or upset (like when they fall down, feel lonely, or are hospitalized). Children develop mental representations (also known as "internal working models" to researchers) of their primary caregivers based on the positive or negative nature of the responses they receive from them. These mental representations, which are said to develop into attachment styles, guide how children act in their future interactions and in the development of future relationships with others (Bretherton & Munholland, 1999).

Basically, the way that your parent(s) responded to you in the first year of your life influenced how you became attached to him and/or her. The attachment that you developed with your parent(s) influenced, and is still influencing, how you develop relationships with other people throughout your entire life. Woah!

What are the different attachment styles?
For adults, there are generally four attachment styles found in the literature (e.g. Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991); secure, fearful-avoidant, dismissing-avoidant, and anxious-preoccupied. Each style has its own set of characteristics.

Securely attached adults...
1. are comfortable with both intimacy and independence
2. do not often worry about their partners accepting them or about abandonment
3. have positive images of themselves and others
4. tend to be highly sociable
5. are open to expressing emotions in relationships

Fearful-Avoidant adults...
1. want close relationships, but have trouble trusting others
2. are torn between a desire for intimacy and a fear of sharing their emotions
3. have negative images of themselves and others
4. are hypersensitive to social approval, but avoid social situations
5. tend to emotionally retreat or fail to express their feelings

Dismissive-Avoidant adults...
1. crave independence and claim that they do not need a relationship
2. seek less intimacy when in relationships
3. have a positive self-image, but a negative image of others
4. prefer to spend time away from the social scene
5. do not openly express their feelings with their partners

Anxious-Preoccupied adults...
1. want intimacy in relationships, but tend to become way too dependent on others
2. can become obsessive when in a relationship
3. have a low opinion of themselves, but a high opinion of others
4. have a strong desire for approval from their mates
5. are extremely comfortable with their emotions and usually desire high levels of emotional disclosure, yet they consistently worry about whether their partners are accepting them

YOU can take this online survey (which is only about 4-6 minutes) to find out what your own attachment style is. What the hell, have your partner take it too!

  • Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 226- 244.
  • Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment (Attachment and loss, Vol 1). New York: Basic Books.
  • Bowlby, J. (1973). Separation: Anxiety and anger (Attachment and loss, Vol. 2). New York: Basic Books.
  • Bretherton, I. & Munholland, K. A. (1999). Internal working models in attachment relationships: A construct revisited. In J. Cassidy and P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications. Guilford Press.

For more information about attachment theory, see the following research articles:

Click HERE to take another one of my "monday morning surveys."

1 comment:

Martha said...

I loved the Monday morning survey. Keep it coming...

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