Attachment bonds are formed at birth and continue to develop throughout an individual’s life. When children are young, they develop attachments to their caregivers, parents, and siblings. As they get older, they begin to form bonds with peers and friends. When a child enters adolescence and young adulthood, romantic partners enter the picture and new relationships are formed. Attachment styles vary from very secure to insecure, and from organized to disorganized. People can have attachment styles that are secure and organized, insecure and disorganized, or any variation of styles. For example, if a child is abused by a parent who provides financial and material support, they may have an insecure and organized attachment to that parent. Attachment bonds are believed to continue to influence an individual’s well-being throughout life. But it is unclear whether people have one general attachment style or form unique attachment styles for each relationship.
Angela Caron of the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa in Canada wanted to find an answer to this question. In a recent study, Caron interviewed 2,214 participants ranging in age from 17 to 25. She asked them to describe their attachments to friends, parents, and romantic partners, and she also assessed their mental well-being. She found that overall, the participants had attachment styles that varied depending on the context of the relationship. Specifically, the participants had attachment patterns with their parents that were very different than those they had with friends or love interests. The attachment to parents was classified as secure or insecure and organized or disorganized, while romantic relationships fell into approach/avoidance categories. With friends and romantic partners, anxiety was an issue that affected attachment. Caron believes friendships and romantic relationships have similar characteristics in young adulthood and adolescence, thus the overlap in anxiety with respect to these attachment styles.
The results also revealed that attachment styles from parents had the most influence on adjustment and happiness despite the fact there are fewer child-parent interactions as children reach adulthood. “These results suggest that secure relationships with parents maintain crucial importance by contributing positively to psychological well-being,” Caron said. She hopes this study demonstrates how important and diverse young adult attachments are, and how they play a major role in well-being throughout the transition to adulthood and beyond.
Caron, Angela, Marie-France Lafontaine, Jean-Francois Bureau, Christine Levesque, and Susan M. Johnson. Comparisons of close relationships: An evaluation of relationship quality and patterns of attachment to parents, friends, and romantic partners in young adults. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 44.4 (2012): 245-56.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.