The Influence of Ethnicity on Attachment (Willis, Smith, Sanford, 2010)

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  • 1. The Influence of Ethnicity on Attachment University of Texas at San Antonio Psychology Department Jarryd Willis B.A., Kimberly Smith M.S., Libbey Sanford B.A. ABSTRACT The current study investigated the influence of ethnicity on attachment style across same-sex friends, opposite-sex friends, and romantic partners.. The study used a 3 (relationship category) X 4 (ethnicity) between subjects design, in which the two dependent variables were scores on the two dimensions of the ECR: avoidant and ambivalent attachment.  The participants were 701 Introduction to Psychology students from Texas universities. INTRODUCTION Attachment theory states that early relationship experiences guide behaviors in later relationships.  Evidence also suggests that adult attachment styles can be a reliable predictor of relationship outcomes in several different types of relationships, such as longevity and satisfaction (Miller & Horowitz, 2004).  Alternately, previous attachment research has been conducted primarily with a Caucasian sample and has not always considered the possible influence of ethnicity on attachment patterns across relationship types. One exception is found in a study conducted by Lopez, Melendez, & Rice (2000) .  African American participants displayed a higher degree of avoidant attachment in their friendship relationships than in their romantic relationships. This provides limited evidence that a difference in attachment styles may also be influenced by ethnic background.       The current study explores the influence of ethnicity on attachment style across same-sex friends, opposite-sex friends, and romantic partners. Due to the limited literature on the relationship between ethnicity and attachment, this study offers two broad hypotheses:      H1: Anxious patterns of attachment patterns will not differ between Caucasian and non-Caucasian participants      H2: Non-Caucasian participants will display higher levels of avoidant attachment than Caucasian participant METHODS Seven-hundred one college students (396 females) between 18-25 years of age participated in either the romantic partner (n =241), cross-sex friend (n =226), or same-sex friend condition (n =234). The ethnic composition of participants was as followed: Caucasian 38.4%, Hispanic 31.2%, African-American 8%, and Asian-American 11.7%. Each participant completed the Experience in Close Relationships (ECR) self-report measure, consisting of 36-short statements that assesses adult attachment on two higher-order dimensions of avoidance and anxiety. Participants responded using a 7-point Likert scale with higher scores indicating a more avoidant or anxious attachment. Measures Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR; Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998) RESULTS All hypotheses were analyzed using STATISTICA. Relationship attachment styles were compared across ethnicities using a 3 (relationship type) x 4 (Ethnicity) multivariate between-subject analysis of variance, with the ECR avoidance and anxiety subscales as dependent measures. Analysis of Attachment Anxiety Results revealed a main effect of relationship type for attachment anxiety, F (2, 617) = 19.83, p < .001. Bonferroni adjusted comparisons found attachment anxiety to be highest for romantic partners ( M = 58.3), and higher for cross-sex ( M = 50.84) than same-sex friends ( M = 42.62). Contradictory to what was expected, there was no main effect of ethnicity or interaction. Subsequent analyses comparing minorities and non-minorities failed to find a main effect of, or interaction with, minority status. Analysis of Attachment Avoidance There was a main effect of relationship type for attachment avoidance, F (2, 583) = 7.36, p < .001. Pairwise comparisons indicated that attachment avoidance was lowest for romantic partners ( M = 39.95), and did not differ for cross-sex ( M = 47.51) or same-sex friends ( M =47.23). Though there was no main effect of ethnicity, a dunnett’s test revealed that attachment avoidance was higher for African-Americans ( M = 43.96) than for Caucasians ( M = 49.6), p =.046. Furthermore, vector contrasts of cross-sex friends found that this difference was limited to cross-sex friendships, and African-Americans scored higher than all other groups, p = .01. DISCUSSION The results of this study are in keeping with the literature of differential attachment patterns across relationship types.  The significant effect of relationship type on both the anxiety and avoidance dimensions of attachment provide further support for the notion that a person often develops different patterns of relating and attaching to friends and romantic partners.  Contrary to expectations, ethnicity was not influential on both attachment dimensions.  Rather, ethnicity only had a significant effect on the avoidant dimension of attachment.  Nonetheless, the increased avoidant scores for African American participants is partially in keeping with previous literature by Lopez, Melendez, and Rice (2000) which found that Hispanic and African American participants scored higher on the avoidance dimension of attachment than their white peers.  In our study, however, no significant differences were found  between the avoidant scores for Hispanic and Caucasian individuals  Some of the limitations in this study are evident in the small sample of African American, Asian-American, Biracial, and underrepresented ethnicities used.  Future studies should attempt to afford more statistical power to this analysis with a more comprehensive sample of minority groups.  REFERENCES Amato, P, & Eade, R. (2009). [Podcast] Divorce. Lopez, F.G., Melendez, M.C., & Rice, K.G. (2000). Parental divorce, parent-child bonds, and adult attachment orientations among college students: A comparison of three racial/ethnic groups. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47 (2), 177-186. Miller, J.B. & Hoicowitz, T. (2004). Attachment contexts of adolescent friendship and romance . Journal of Adolescence, 22 (6), 191-207. Department of Psychology Department of Psychology 2010 APA Conference, San Diego