Ch 12: Relationships Adult Attachment
We use different coping strategies when your relationship is in distress. 4
main different coping strategies we will talk about.
Examples of the research conducted today:
Ted Huston: University of Texas
John Gottman: University of Washington
Do you think some people have an easier/harder time being in a successful
o If yes, what could explain these differences? Levels of trust,
communication, previous experiences, self-confidence, self-esteem,
positive outlook, sense of humour, self-awareness
Why do unhappy couples stay together? Children, fear of being alone, financial stress,
emotional dependence, same circle of friends, time invested in the relationship,
sexual reasons, religious reasons,
Developmental researchers realized children displayed patterns of
attachment to their major caregivers (Bowlby, 1969)
John Bowlby (1907-1990)
If it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t be able to have parents with you during
your hospital visits
He studied children in hospitals and orphans
Infants were not getting any physical contact, but still being fed. A lot of them
were dying but they had no idea why. Started touching them and being more
affectionate, death rate was lower
**All of us as human beings are preprogrammed to seek out proximity to our
immediate caregivers. We are programmed this way for survival. We develop
behaviour to make sure we stay safe and survive (crying, smiling, crawling)
Attachment During Childhood John Bowlby (1907-1990)
Relationships with attachment figures during childhood affect one’s self
image and the perception he/she has of the world around him/her
Internal Representation models
Self: am I worthy of love?
Social relationship/others: Can I count on other people? Would you be there
if I need help? Attachment During Childhood Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999)
Created the Strange Situation: Mom and child with a stranger and she was
able to code based on the child’s behaviour once mom left, which category
the child would fall under (one of the three below)
A procedure that aims to generate increasing although moderate, levels of
anxiety in the child.
The infant’s behavior upon the parent’s return is the basis for classifying the
infant into one of the 3 attachment categories
o 1) Secure when a child is in need the mother was consistently there
and tentative to the child’s needs. The child is learning that they are
worthy of love. They are learning that their parent is trustworthy and
that they will be there in times of need
o 2) Anxious/Ambivalent upon return the child cannot be comforted
In the past maybe the mother has been inconsistent with providing
comfort. So they react with crying to try and make sure the parent will
be consistent in the future.
o 3) Avoidant (insecure) when they sought out, their parent did not
sooth them, they were not even there. Upon return the child does
react to parent’s return. They learn that they have to be independent
and cannot depend on our parents, self-regulation of emotions. They
will keep playing or no reaction the parent.
We can predict with 75 percent accuracy what attachment style a child will
have by assessing the mother’s style before her baby is even born!
Early interpersonal experiences shape the course of one’s subsequent
Our attachment styles continue to shaped as adults
Different styles with different people and it is fluid (can change over time)
Three Attachment Styles
They gave older adults questionnaires and asked which they fell under:
“I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on
them and having them depend on me. I don’t worry about being abandoned or
about someone getting too close to me”
Anxious / ambivalent attachment:
“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. I want to get
very close to my partner and this sometimes scares people away”
“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” They found that when you try and fit people into these boxes, there is a
continuum; you don’t really follow into ONE category.
Bartholomew (1990) created 4 styles:
1. Secure: remained the same
2. Preoccupied: new name for anxious /ambivalent.
2 ways of being avoidant
3. Fearful: you want relationships with other but you fear rejection and mistrust
4. Dismissing: More independent and self-reliant people they like that freedom and
they would rather this that to be super close with others.
• 2 Dimensions:
Views of Others (negative or positive)
View of Self (negative or positive)
Views of self
View of others Positive Secure: Preoccupied:
confortable with preoccupied with
intimacy and relationships
Negative Dismissing: Self- Fearful: Fearful of
reliant and rejection and
uninterested in mistrustful of
4 type in child is disorganized
This is the model we use now:
• 2 Other Dimensions:
– Avoidance of Intimacy (low and high)
– Anxiety over Abandonment (low and high)
• 2 continuous dimensions – anxiety and avoidance (Brennan, Clark, & Shaver,
• I need a lot of reassurance that I am loved by my partner
• I resent it when my partner spends time away from me
• I prefer not to show a partner how I feel deep down
• I try to avoid getting too close to my partner Romantic attachment
Preoccupied: Hyperactivation Strategy Ex: A women who goes to kiss her husband at bed and he turns away. This is
her trigger. She fears he will go watch porn or seek intimacy elsewhere. So in
return she keeps trying harder and this pushes him away even more.
Fearful avoidant attachment in Matt Damon. He makes reference to his
childhood and tries to think of any reason as to why it won’t work with them.
Totally ignores any reason she gives otherwise. Fears rejection like he was
rejected as a child (the cigarette burns and he was an orphan)
The girl actress style is secure. She doesn’t want to stay with someone who
doesn’t love her. She was taking a risk by asking him to go to Cali with him.
She wasn’t sure if it was going to work out, but she was willing to take a
chance. She doesn’t chase him out the door.
Can our Attachment Styles Change Over Time?
Although the attachment system is most critical during the early years of life,
attachment is active over the entire lifespan
Attachment styles are learned from our experiences with others
They can be “unlearned” and over time can change
Avoidant and anxious styles are more likely to change than a secure style is
Individual Differences in Romantic Attachment
Securely attached (Low Anxiety/Low Avoidance)
• Long, stable and satisfying relationships 47%. Most studies showing 60%.
• Preoccupied (High Anxiety/Low Avoidance) – vigilant toward and
preoccupied with their romantic partners, low relationship satisfaction 14%
• Dismissing (Low Anxiety/High Avoidance) – less interested in romantic
relationships, especially long-term committed ones 18%
• Fearful (High Anxiety/High Avoidance) - emotional vulnerability & avoidance
of closeness 21%
60 % securely attached
25 % in avoidance category
15% in preoccupied category
Relationship Quality and Satisfaction
Relationship quality is predicted most strongly by men’s low avoidance and
women’s low anxiety.
Aka men are comfortable talking about their feelings and talk about their
needs. Women are self-confidant, not clingy.
Secure styles tend to be more satisfied with their intimate partners than
avoidant and anxious people are
More secure equals more satisfaction in both heterosexual and homosexual
• Secure are more open with partners, more self-disclosure
• Avoidant spouses are close-mouthed, little about feelings and desires
• Insecure individuals provide less reassurance to loved ones than secure
– More open in communication
– In tune with partners sexual needs
– More likely to talk about what they want in bed
– Difficulties articulating needs
– Fewer positive and more negative feelings during sex
– Lower levels of arousal, intimacy, and pleasure
– Lower rate of orgasm in women
– Lower sexual satisfaction both men and women
– You are not getting what you want, you are more likely to do things
you don’t want to do.
– Less frequency of intercourse and more solitary masturbation
– Men and women have sex less often and try to avoid sex with their
– More positive attitudes to casual emotionless sex and ‘‘one night
Sex and Motivation
– Increased closeness
– Gain a partner’s reassurance and avoid rejection
– Hypersensitive to partner’s desire, arousal, orgasm
– Own pleasure
Partner pairing and couple dynamics
• Secure partners not only prefer each other but also tend to pair up with each
• Dissimilar insecure attachment styles are attracted to each other (avoidant –
• Why?? We want things to be predictable and certain. When we grow up in a
hostile environment (we know it is wrong, or not the best for us) but we are
in it anyway. We want to confirm the view of our self and of others. So if I am
anxiously attached, if my view of self is low, who better to confirm that than
someone who is also anxious attached (doesn’t express feelings, etc.). • Secure couples show better adjustment than other couples (intimacy,
partners’ relationship functioning, partners’ response to conflict)
• Findings are unclear regarding mixed couples (secure/insecure), but they
seem to be similar to secure couples or at least better off than insecure
• Anxious / avoidant couples
• When the woman is anxious – relationship rated more negatively by both
partners (satisfaction, viability, conflict)
• How do these couples fare over time?
• The relationships of avoidant men and anxious women – the
relationships that received the most negative ratings at time 1 – were
at least as stable as those of the relatively satisfied secure participants
• It was the anxious men and avoidant women who evinced the highest
breakup rates across time
• Why do unhappy partners stay together?
• 4-year longitudinal study involving 172 newly married couples
• High anxiety about abandonment distinguished spouses who were unhappily
married from those who were happily married and those who divorced
(even after controlling for divorce attitudes, presence of a child, neuroticism,
Gender is an important component of attraction
Geography and time limit out opportunities to meet people
We tend to be more attracted to people with whom we have had contact with
several times than with people we have had little contact with.
Mere-exposure effect: repeated exposure to any stimulus, including a person,
leads to a greater liking for that stimulus.
We tend to like people who are similar to use in age, ethnicity, background
and economic and social status.
Homophily is the tendency to have contact with people equal in social status.
It is interesting that short-term partnerships are as homophilous as
marriages and common-law relationships.
The tendency for men and women to choose as partner’s people who match
them on social and personal characteristics is called the matching
Despite the saying “opposites attract”, dissimilar attitudes tend to cause
disliking not liking.
Research so far shows that similarity in attitudes is important but similarity
in personality is not. Some research shows that similarity of attachment styles was associated
with indicators of marital satisfaction but similarity in attitudes was not.
Given a choice, more than one potential partner of any orientation prefers
the one who is more physically attractive.
For the women, there was a fairly strong relationship between attractiveness
and popularity. Prettier ones had been on more dates in previous year.
This similarity existed for men but it was not as pronounced.
Even young children are more attracted to children with attractive faces
BOTH young men and women rate physical appearance as most important.
Light skin was rated as more attractive, perhaps reflecting the use of white
skin as standard (study with African Americans)
Attractiveness is more important to males evaluating females
Our perception of attractiveness is influenced by our evaluation of their