Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Fun: What's your attachment style?

Is Edward being too clingy?
In romantic relationships, we all have our MOs. Some people tend to be more clingy and needy of affection, whereas others seem to be wearing an armor of steel, afraid to let anyone get too close. In psychology, these tendencies are referred to as adult attachment styles, and they are presumably based on interactions with caregivers in early childhood, and to some extent on later relationships. Decades of research on adult attachment styles have revealed that they have powerful effects on romantic relationships and mental health. So what is your attachment style?

Multiple measures have been developed to tap into attachment styles, but here is one that is easy to use at a glance (it doesn't require any complex scoring algorithms). It was developed by Bartholomew and Horowitz in 1991. Read each of the following descriptions and decide which one fits you best - it may be more than one (people can possess multiple attachment styles, some of which may be more chronically accessible than others). The descriptions can refer to both romantic relationships and friendships.

1. "It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don't worry about being alone or having others not accept me."

2. "I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me."

3. "I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don't value me as much as I value them."

4. "I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely, or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others."

1= secure  2 = dismissive  3=preoccupied  4 = fearful

You can also see where your choice fits into the following table (explanation below). 

Attachment styles are comprised of views of others (vertical axis), such as expectations about whether others will be there for you when you need them, and views of the self (horizontal axis), such as beliefs about whether you are lovable. Securely attached individuals have generally positive views of both themselves and others, which allows them to be comfortable with closeness, but also maintain some level of independence. Insecure attachment comes in three different varieties, depending on the specific combination of positivity and negativity. Fearful individuals have negative views of both themselves and others - they feel unworthy of love and also doubt that others are capable of caring for them. Preoccupied individuals have negative views of themselves but positive views of others - or at least high hopes for others' potential to bring them a sense of comfort and security. These individuals turn to relationships to affirm their depleted self-esteem, but they run into trouble because it is not always possible for others to give them all the reassurance and love they need. Dismissive individuals feel fine about themselves but don't trust others, making them less likely to seek out romantic relationships in the first place. When they do, they tend to be defensive and distant. (Fearful and Dismissive styles are also sometimes referred to as Avoidant, and Preoccupied as Anxious.)

If you're more on the insecure side, don't worry - extensive research suggests that nearly half of all people are insecure, and there may even be some advantages to insecurity. Furthermore, insecurity can shift into security over time, especially in the context of supportive, healthy relationships. 

To read more about adult attachment styles, Chris Fraley's website is a good place to start.

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