The Relationship Between Adult Attachment Classification and Symptoms of Depression

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The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between adult attachment classification and symptoms of depression. By assessing adult attachment classifications in this study it is proposed it will identify individuals at risk to depressive symptoms and help in gaining a better understanding of the types of treatment interventions that may be most effective given an individual’s attachment style.

One hundred undergraduate students will complete two online questionnaires each, with one on adult attachment and one on depression. Data on age and gender will also be collected. It is hypothesized that participants with a preoccupied or fearful style (negative view of self) will have higher levels of depression symptoms as compared to participants with a Secure or Dismissing style (positive view of self).

John Bowlby once proclaimed that attachment relationships were important for humans across the life cycle and that attachment behaviours characterised human interaction “from the cradle to the grave” (Bowlby, 1979). This theory was developed from his observations of common attachment in infants and Bowlby (1979) proposed that early interactions between an infant and his or her primary caregiver determine an infant's sense of security, both in terms of feelings of self-worth and expectations about the availability of others.

Bowlby (1979) found that children who are securely attached to their caregivers treated them as sources of emotional support to which they turned for comfort in times of distress. Children with avoidant attachments, in contrast, actively distanced themselves both physically and psychologically when they were upset and did not view their caregivers as sources of support. Children with anxious–ambivalent attachments exhibited approach–avoidance behaviors toward their caregivers when distressed, mixing bids for comfort and support with withdrawal and anger. These patterns of attachment were partly in response to the consistency and quality of affection from their primary care giver. Securely attached children had more supportive care givers than the insecurely attached children whose primary care givers consistently rejected bids for affection and support and emotional independence was encouraged too early. (Bowlby, 1973; Crittenden & Ainsworth, 1989).

These care giving experiences affect the degree to which individuals feel optimistic about whether future attachment figures can be counted on for emotional support, particularly in distressing situations. Although these models can be modified by social experiences (e.g., with close friends or romantic partners), Collins & Allard (2001) found they gradually solidify across development and exert an increasingly strong influence on social perceptions and behavior.

In the past two decades, considerable research has explored Bowlby's attachment theory (Bartholomew 1990; Griffin & Bartholomew, 1994) with insecure attachment models thought to leave adults vulnerable to emotional distress, particularly depression (Bowlby 1969; 1973;1980). It has been suggested that Attachment Theory (Bowlby 1969; 1973; 1980) provides a framework for an understanding of adult attachment style and its association with depression and depressive vulnerability (Carnelley, Pietromonaco & Jaffe, 1994)

Hazan and Shaver (1987), sought to substantiate this assumption by studying adult attachment style and more recently Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) proposed a four-category attachment model proposed to identify styles of adult attachment. In this model, it is argued that the two dimensions underlying measures of attachment can be conceptualised as model of self (positive vs. negative) and model of others (positive vs. negative). Bartholomew and Horowitz also pointed out that combinations of the two dimensions can yield four major attachment patterns: secure, preoccupied, dismissing and fearful.

Adult attachment styles reflect expectations...
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