Western Consortium for Public Health

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Western Consortium for Public Health Essay

Ever since Hazan and Shaver (1987) showed that it is possible to use a self-report questionnaire to measure adolescent and adult romantic-attachment orientations (secure, anxious, and avoidant–the three patterns identified by Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall, 1978, in their studies of infant-caregiver attachment), a steady stream of variants and extensions of their questionnaire have been proposed. The resulting diversity often arouses frustration and confusion in newcomers to the field who wonder which of the many measures to use. The three of us are probably typical of attachment researchers in receiving as many as five telephone calls, letters, and e-mail messages a week from researchers who want to know either “Has anything happened since 1987?” or “Which measure is the best?” In the present chapter we attempt to solve this problem by creating an all-purpose reply to future attachment researchers who wish to use self-report measures. Interview measures have also been proposed, but we will say little about them here. Attachment interviews are powerful and perhaps uniquely revealing, but they are also impractical for most researchers. (See Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; Bartholomew & Shaver, this volume; Main, Kaplan, & Cassidy, 1985; Scharfe & Bartholomew, 1994; and van IJzendoorn, 1995, for discussions of attachment interview measures, not all of which measure the same constructs.)


Hazan and Shaver (1987, 1990) asked research participants to indicate which of three attachment-style prototypes (shown here in Table 1) best characterized their feelings and behavior in romantic relationships. These authors naively took for granted that Ainsworth et al. (1978) were correct in thinking of attachment patterns (usually called “attachment styles” by social psychologists) as categories or types. In retrospect, it is evident that Hazan and Shaver should have paid attention to Ainsworth et al.’s Figure 10 (p. 102), which summarized the results of a discriminant analysis predicting infant attachment type (secure, anxious, or avoidant) from the continuous rating scales used by coders to characterize the infants’ behavior in a laboratory “Strange Situation.” Our Figure 1 reproduces the essential features of the Ainsworth et al. figure and also includes our names for the two discriminant functions: Avoidance and Anxiety.Western Consortium for Public Health Essay

The coding scales that correlated most highly with the avoidance dimension (Function 1) were: (1) avoiding mother during episodes 5 and 8 of the Strange Situation (the two reunion episodes), (2) not maintaining contact with mother during episode 8, (3) not seeking proximity during episode 8, and (4) engaging in more exploratory behavior and more distance interaction (communication with a stranger while mother was absent) in episode 7 of the Strange Situation. All of these scales indicate avoidance of mother, lack of closeness to mother, and less distress during mother’s absence (in the presence of an adult stranger). The coding scales that correlated most highly with the anxiety dimension (Function 2) were: (1) crying (all through episodes, 2-8, but especially episode 6, when the infant was left alone for 3 minutes), (2) greater angry resistance to mother during episodes 5 and 8 (the reunions), (3) greater angry resistance to the stranger during episodes 3, 4, and 7 (when the stranger tried to comfort or play with the infant), and (4) reduced exploration in episode 7, when the solitary infant was joined by a stranger.

Figure 1 indicates that, right from the start, Ainsworth’s three major attachment “types” could be conceptualized as regions in a two-dimensional space, the dimensions being Avoidance (discomfort with closeness and dependency) and Anxiety (crying, failing to explore confidently in the absence of mother, and angry protest directed at mother during reunions after what was probably experienced as abandonment). When Levy and Davis (1988) first asked adult subjects to rate how well each of Hazan and Shaver’s (1987) romantic attachment prototypes described them, it was revealed that the three ratings could be reduced to two dimensions, one corresponding to Avoidance (discomfort with closeness and dependency) and the other to Anxiety (about abandonment).Western Consortium for Public Health Essay

In subsequent studies, Simpson (1990) and Collins and Read (1990) broke Hazan and Shaver’s multi-sentence attachment-style prototypes into separate propositions with which subjects could agree or disagree to varying extents. When these Likert-type items were factor analyzed, a two-factor (Simpson) or three-factor (Collins & Read) solution was obtained. In the case of the three-factor solution, two of the factors (discomfort with closeness and discomfort with dependence on romantic partners) were significantly correlated (r = .38). Simpson and his colleagues (e.g., Simpson, Rholes, & Nelligan, 1992) called their two dimensions “security vs. avoidance” and “anxiety” (about abandonment). Collins and Read (1990) called their three dimensions “close,” “depend,” and “anxiety” (about abandonment). If we interpret the close and depend dimensions as facets of avoidance (the term facets being borrowed from Costa & McCrae, 1992), all of the early analyses of the structure of Hazan and Shaver’s measure are compatible with the interpretation that adult attachment measures, like Ainsworth et al.’s coding scales for the Strange Situation, primarily assess avoidance and attachment-related anxiety.

The two-dimensional empirical and conceptual structure underlying attachment orientations was articulated more completely when researchers who study infant-caregiver attachment and those who study adolescent and adult romantic attachment realized that a two-dimensional space makes room for four, rather than three, quadrants or conceptual patterns. Crittenden (1988) and others who focused on infant-caregiver attachment in abusive and troubled families noted a mixed avoidant/anxious type. Main and Solomon (1990) identified a somewhat similar pattern, called “disorganized, disoriented” attachment. A diagram of the four infant types organized by the Avoidance and Anxiety dimensions is shown in Figure 2.Western Consortium for Public Health Essay


In the area of adult attachment, Bartholomew (1990), who had noticed that Hazan and Shaver’s (1987, 1990) avoidant type and Main et al.’s (1985) dismissing (avoidant) type differed in the degree to which they exhibited anxious as well as avoidant qualities, proposed the now-familiar two-dimensional, four-category conceptual scheme shown in Figure 3. The parallels between Figures 2 and 3 are obvious. In both diagrams the upper left-hand quadrant represents securely attached individuals–infants and adults who are neither anxious about abandonment nor avoidant in their behavior. The upper right-hand quadrant of both diagrams represents anxious or preoccupied attachment, defined as a mixture of anxiety and interpersonal approach (nonavoidance). The lower left-hand quadrant represents dismissingly avoidant attachment, a combination of avoidant behavior and apparent lack of anxiety about abandonment. The lower right-hand quadrant represents fearfully avoidant attachment, which combines anxiety about abandonment with avoidant behavior.Western Consortium for Public Health Essay