Individuals who have avoidant attachment personalities struggle with intimacy and closeness. In romantic relationships, this type of personality can cause a partner to distance themselves from their loved one, and avoid physical closeness. “Because avoidantly-attached people feel most comfortable with distance and detachment from their partner, they may have less of the commitment-inspired inhibition that normally prevents people from showing interest in alternatives and from engaging in infidelity,” said C. Nathan DeWall of the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. “Therefore, avoidant attachment may relate to a broad pattern of responses indicative of interest in alternatives and propensity to engage in infidelity, associations that should be mediated by a lack of commitment to one’s partner.” DeWall and his colleagues conducted a study to find out how avoidant attachment affected commitment in romantic relationships, and if the level of commitment would influence the desire to cheat. He said, “We focus on commitment because prior evidence suggests that commitment is the most direct mediator when predicting behaviors that relate to the persistence of one’s relationship and engagement of behaviors meant to strengthen one’s relationship, accounting for variance beyond relationship satisfaction and investment in one’s relationship.”
DeWall enlisted 42 college students in romantic relationships for his study. He conducted eight separate studies designed to evaluate both attachment style and commitment, and found that in all the studies, attachment style was directly linked to commitment and infidelity. “The first four studies showed that avoidant attachment was related to more positive attitudes toward cheating on a current relationship partner, having an attentional bias toward alternatives, and engaging in more infidelity,” said DeWall. “The final four studies showed that lower levels of commitment mediated the relationship between avoidant attachment and interest in alternatives and infidelity. He added, “Our findings suggest that chronic discomfort with closeness and intimacy, as indicated by relatively high levels of an avoidant attachment style, has direct consequences for how interested people are in alternatives to their relationship partner, their attitudes toward cheating on their partner, how committed they are, and hence how much they engage in infidelity.”
DeWall, C. Nathan, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Erica B. Slotter, Richard S. Pond, Jr., Timothy Deckman, Eli J. Finkel, Laura B. Luchies, and Frank D. Finchman. “So Far Away From One’s Partner, Yet So Close to Romantic Alternatives: Avoidant Attachment, Interest in Alternatives, and Infidelity.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101.6 (2011): 1302-316. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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