The Relationship Between Attachment Style, Ostracism and Body Dissatisfaction

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The Relationship Between Attachment Style, Ostracism and Body Dissatisfaction

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Honors in Psychology, Rutgers University.

May 2011


Previous research in social psychology has shown that body dissatisfaction is a risk factor for eating pathology. We set out to see if an individual’s attachment style could predict body dissatisfaction. We also intended to see if ostracism could predict a change in body dissatisfaction for individual attachment styles. We hypothesized that the insecurely attached would report higher body dissatisfaction, and would feel worse post ostracism. This effect would be seen by a positive change in BD. To test these predictions, participants were assigned to either ostracism or an inclusion condition within the computer game of Cyberball. They also were given the BSQ pre and post ostracism. Results indicated that there was a significant correlation between attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance and BD. The ostracism manipulation did not result in the anticipated change in BD. Analyses did reveal that the interaction of attachment avoidance could predict a change in BD. Avoidance accounted for 10% of the variance. Anxiety measures did reveal that participants did not feel anxiety post ostracism. This may have impacted the lack of change in BD.


Although there is a vast amount of knowledge written on the topic of eating disorders, there is a lack of information about the causal link between attachment style and body dissatisfaction. Given the numbers of persons afflicted with eating disorders the goal of this project is to shed light on the relationship between attachment body dissatisfaction and eating. Attachment style is a key to understanding our personality and how it shapes our perception of the world. (Bowlby ,1980). It dictates how we live our lives, interact with others, manage our relationships, and how we regulate our emotions. In the current study we used the cyberball paradigm to look at how ostracism directly effects body dissatisfaction My hypothesis states that people who have an insecure attachment will have more body dissatisfaction then those that are securely attached and these individuals will have an even greater body dissatisfaction post ostracism. We measured Body Dissatisfaction pre and post ostracism to analyze any effect that this ostracism will have on individual’s body dissatisfaction scores. Attachment

John Bowlby developed attachment theory in 1973 which posits that a person’s style of relating to others is a direct result of early interactions with significant others. This attachment style further dictates how one feels about self and others. This system evolved in humans to help keep us safe when in threatening situations. Proximity seeking behavior is a means for one to feel safe and experience, “felt security”(Bowlby, 1951). The activation of attachment behaviors differs from person to person, as a result of early interactions with others. Although most of us seek proximity to others when distressed, individual differences arise when one may have a history of positive interactions leading to a positive adaptation verses how past rejection can lead to serious doubts of others and influence a lack of security. (Bowlby, 1973). Individuals who experience the protection associated with close relationships tend to encourage proximity seeking behaviors, where as those that do not have these close ties to others will activate the fight or flight response. This behavior continues through the life span often dictating affect regulation and future interpersonal experiences. (Bowlby, 1982). According to Bowlby all infants are born with these proximity-seeking behaviors, in order to have proper affect regulation, to alleviate distress, and protect the child from psychological and physical threats.

The above individual differences have been...
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