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Comparing attachment patterns across relationships

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Comparing attachment patterns across relationships

  1. 1. Comparing Attachment Patterns in Relationships Involving Primary Caregivers, Friends, and Romantic Partners University of Texas at San Antonio Psychology Department . Jarryd T. Willis B.A., Robert W. Fuhrman Ph.D., Jaclynn B. Prince B.A., Kimberly D. Smith M.S. ABSTRACT Our study compared attachment styles of college-aged participants (n= 294) across four types of intimate relationships. Attachment scores for primary caregivers were more predictive of attachment patterns for romantic partners and same-sex friends when individuals were romantically-involved and more predictive of attachment patterns for cross-sex friends when individuals were single. INTRODUCTION Attachment theory posits that early childhood experiences with one’s primary caregiver creates an enduring pattern of interaction within future relationships. Essentially, early parent-child interactions form a prototypic attachment template whereby an individual develops one of three attachment styles (secure, avoidant, preoccupied). Research from the last decade, however, suggests that people develop differential patterns of interaction for each member of their social network (Overall, Fletcher, & Frissen, 2003). Relational schemas are organized hierarchically for different members of one’s interactive network causing attachment styles to vary across relationships (La Guardia, Ryan, Couchman, & Deci, 2000). Furthermore, Eastwick and Finkel (2008) found that partner-specific attachment preoccupation had large positive correlations with both safe haven and secure base behaviors. Basically, potential lovers begin to encourage attachment behaviors that tend to be reserved for one’s primary caregiver. While research has demonstrated differential attachment patterns across relationships, research has yet to examine the role of one’s prototypic caregiver attachment in this paradigm. This study extends previous research by: investigating how romantic involvement influences the attachment symmetry between one’s prototypic caregiver attachment and attachment to cross-sex and same-sex friends. This study extends previous work by examining if the attachment prototype will determine attachment across relationships regardless of romantic partner-specific effects. Hypotheses are as follows: (1) Attachment avoidance and preoccupation for romantic partners will deviate from prototypic caregiver attachment. (2) The symmetry of attachment preoccupation between an individual’s friends and their primary caregiver will differ based on romantic status. (3) For attachment avoidance, the symmetry between an individual’s friends and their caregiver will differ based on romantic status. (4) Prototypic caregiver attachment will not deviate regardless of romantic status. METHODS Two hundred ninety-four college-aged students (183 females) of age 18 or older participated in the study. All participants completed self-report measures for their primary caregiver, as well as one of three relationship categories. To control for order, the caregiver- romantic partner (101 subjects), caregiver-cross-sex friend (97), and caregiver-same-sex friend (96) questionnaires were all counterbalanced. Measures Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised (ECR-R) (Fraley et al., 2000). The pronoun for each attachment figure was changed across the four 36-item ECR-R measures. Using MPlus 5.21, the ECR-R two factor solution was found to demonstrate the best factor structure for the caregiver,  2 (559) = 1275.89, p < .001, CFI = .836, TLI = .815, RMSEA = .073 (90% CI = .068-.079, SRMS = .052). RESULTS Caregiver attachment was compared to attachment to other figures using a 3 (relationship type) x 2 (romantic status) repeated measures analysis of variance, and the ECR-R subscales were rotated as dependent measures. Preoccupation An analysis of the caregiver with romantic partners found a significant difference in attachment ambivalence, F (1, 88) = 5.321,  2 = .06, p = .023. Preoccupation for the romantic partner ( M = 41.68) was greater than it was for the caregiver ( M = 36.91). Attachment ambivalence did not differ for cross-sex friends and caregivers within romantically involved individuals; however, it DID differ within single individuals, F (1, 37) = 7.469,  2 = .17, p = .01. Single individuals were much more preoccupied with their cross-sex friends ( M = 50.68) than their caregivers ( M = 39.76). Attachment ambivalence for caregivers and same-sex friends was found to differ significantly within romantically involved individuals, F (1, 46) = 4.918,  2 =.097, p = .032. Individuals displayed less preoccupation for their same-sex friends ( M = 34.02) than for their caregivers ( M = 39.77). Ambivalence for caregivers and same-sex friends did not differ within single individuals. Avoidance An analysis of the caregiver with romantic partners found a significant difference in attachment avoidance, F (1, 80) = 20.378,  2 = .2, p < .001. Avoidance for the caregiver ( M = 49.47) was greater than it was for the romantic partner ( M = 38.37). Similar to ambivalence, attachment avoidance did not differ for cross-sex friends and caregivers within romantically involved individuals; it remained significantly different, however, within single individuals, F (1, 33) = 5.757,  2 = .15, p = .02. Single individuals indicated more attachment avoidance towards their caregiver ( M = 56.82) than their cross-sex friends ( M = 47). Attachment avoidance scores for caregivers and same-sex friends differed significantly within romantically involved individuals, F (1, 40) = 8.708,  2 =.18, p = .005. Individuals displayed more avoidance for their caregivers ( M = 52.39) than for their same-sex friends ( M = 39.85). Similar to ambivalence, attachment avoidance for caregivers and same-sex friends did not differ within single individuals. <ul><li>DISCUSSION </li></ul><ul><li>This research found several results supporting previous studies examining differential attachment across relationships, different behavioral expectations across relationships, and the influence of romantic partner-specific preoccupation (La Guardia et al, 2000; Overall et al., 2003; Eastwick and FInkel, 2008; Fuhrman, Flannagan, & Matamoros, 2009). Furthermore, it found that differential attachment styles could shift based on the presence or absence of a romantic partner, irrespective of the child-caregiver attachment. </li></ul><ul><li>As would be expected after 18+ years of reinforcement, the prototypic attachment was unaffected by romantic status. Tacit to say, the child-caregiver attachment formed in infancy remains stable. </li></ul><ul><li>(2) Consistent with Eastwick and Finkel’s (2008) finding of partner-specific attachment anxiety having large positive correlations with both safe haven and secure base behaviors , romantic partner attachment avoidance and preoccupation was found to be asymmetric to that of one’s caregiver. Understand that this is critical for the lover-contingent attachment shifts observed in cross-sex and same-sex friends. Consider that both attachment avoidance and preoccupation for same-sex friends was found to be asymmetric to the caregiver when romantically involved, and was found to be asymmetric for cross-sex friends when single. This indicates that, not only does one individual have different attachment styles for different people, but that their configuration can change based on the presence or absence of a romantic partner. Hence, the romantic partner acts as a proxy-prototype by assuming secure base and safe haven roles typically reserved for the caregiver, and by attenuating the symmetry of other relational attachments to match or deviate from the caregiver prototype. </li></ul><ul><li>(3) Ein-Dor, Mikulincer, Doron, and Shaver (2010) may a scholarly argument for the survival adaptiveness of insecure attachment styles, and I for one feel an argument for romantic adaptiveness can be made here. Consider that preoccupation remained stagnant for same-sex, but changed profoundly for cross-sex friends. This is likely due to implicit relational rules: you wouldn’t contemplate dating your same-sex friend regardless of status, but your cross-sex friend may resemble romantic potentiation if you are single. Thus, this form of preoccupation may not necessarily be maladaptive or indicate insecurity; however, it could be detrimental to a relationship over time. Just as acute stress is helpful and prolonged stress is harmful, partner-specific preoccupation may be what blasts your romance into outer space, but it is not the fuel that’s going to keep it in orbit. </li></ul><ul><li>In conclusion, this research supports Bowlby’s (1973) assertion that the attachment prototype developed in early child-caregiver bonds remains stable over one’s lifetime. It also supports studies showing that an individual may have differential attachment styles across relationships. Furthermore, it shows that the influence of the prototypic caregiver attachment on other attachment figures is compromised by the influence of romantic partners in early adulthood. Further research will need to be done to derive the romantic partner’s full influence as a proxy or 2 nd -order prototype. </li></ul>Presented at 2010 APS Conference <ul><li>REFERENCES </li></ul><ul><li>Fuhrman, R. W., Flannagan, D., & Matamoros, M. (2009). Behavior Expectations in Cross-Sex Friendships, Same-Sex Friendships, and Romantic Relationships. Personal Relationships, 16, 575-596. </li></ul><ul><li>Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J. O., & Friesen, M. D. (2003). Mapping the intimate relationship mind: Comparisons Between Three Models of Attachment Representations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1479-1493. </li></ul><ul><li>Ein-Dor, T., Mikulincer, M., Doron, G., & Shaver, P.R. (2010). The Attachment Paradox: How Can So Many of Us (the Insecure Ones) Have No Adaptive Advantages? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(2), 123-141. </li></ul>Department of Psychology Department of Psychology

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