Attachment Theory | Simply Psychology
Research on adult attachment is guided by the assumption that the same motivational system that gives rise to the close emotional bond between parents and their children is responsible for the bond that develops between adults in emotionally intimate relationships. The objective of this essay is to provide a brief overview of the history of adult attachment research, the key theoretical ideas, and a sampling of some of the research findings. This essay has been written for people who are interested in learning more about research on adult attachment.
Certain types of learning are possible, respective to each applicable type of learning, only within a limited age range known as a . Bowlby's concepts included the idea that attachment involved learning from experience during a limited age period, influenced by adult behaviour. He did not apply the imprinting concept in its entirety to human attachment. However, he considered that attachment behaviour was best explained as instinctive, combined with the effect of experience, stressing the readiness the child brings to social interactions. Over time it became apparent there were more differences than similarities between attachment theory and imprinting so the analogy was dropped. Ethologists expressed concern about the adequacy of some research on which attachment theory was based, particularly the generalisation to humans from animal studies. Schur, discussing Bowlby's use of ethological concepts (pre-1960) commented that concepts used in attachment theory had not kept up with changes in ethology itself. Ethologists and others writing in the 1960s and 1970s questioned and expanded the types of behaviour used as indications of attachment. Observational studies of young children in natural settings provided other behaviours that might indicate attachment; for example, staying within a predictable distance of the mother without effort on her part and picking up small objects, bringing them to the mother but not to others. Although ethologists tended to be in agreement with Bowlby, they pressed for more data, objecting to psychologists writing as if there were an "entity which is 'attachment', existing over and above the observable measures." considered "attachment behaviour system" to be an appropriate term which did not offer the same problems "because it refers to postulated control systems that determine the relations between different kinds of behaviour."
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 (1987) developed a simple questionnaire to measure these individual differences. (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:Recent research on adult attachment has revealed some interesting complexities concerning the relationships between avoidance and defense. Although some avoidant adults, often called fearfully-avoidant adults, are poorly adjusted despite their defensive nature, others, often called dismissing-avoidant adults, are able to use defensive strategies in an adaptive way. For example, in an experimental task in which adults were instructed to discuss losing their partner, Fraley and Shaver (1997) found that dismissing individuals (i.e., individuals who are high on the dimension of attachment-related avoidance but low on the dimension of attachment-related anxiety) were just as physiologically distressed (as assessed by skin conductance measures) as other individuals. When instructed to suppress their thoughts and feelings, however, dismissing individuals were able to do so effectively. That is, they could deactivate their physiological arousal to some degree and minimize the attention they paid to attachment-related thoughts. Fearfully-avoidant individuals were not as successful in suppressing their emotions. 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. Their relationships are characterized by greater longevity, trust, commitment, and interdependence (e.g., Feeney, Noller, & Callan, 1994), and they are more likely to use romantic partners as a secure base from which to explore the world (e.g., Fraley & Davis, 1997). 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 support to their distressed partners (e.g., Simpson et al., 1992). Second, the attributions that insecure individuals make concerning their partner's behavior during and following relational conflicts exacerbate, rather than alleviate, their insecurities (e.g., Simpson et al., 1996). 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 (1987) developed a simple questionnaire to measure these individual differences. (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: