Emotion Regulation: Relationship to Attachment Style

Topics: Attachment in adults, Attachment theory, Love Pages: 8 (2213 words) Published: October 17, 2012
Emotion Regulation: Relationship to Attachment Style

The present study aimed to examine the relationship between the four attachment styles developed by Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) and emotion regulation, specifically the differences between the secure and insecure attachment styles and their ability to use positive or negative emotion regulation. Two hundred and ninety eight participants (216 female, 82 male) between the ages of 17 and 68 years answered an online questionnaire containing a scale derived from the Experiences in Close Relationship Scale (Wei, Russell, Mallinckrodt, & Vogel, 2007), Gratz and Roemer’s (2004) scale and Gross and Johns (2003) scale. Contrary to expectations there was no significant difference between the secure group and fearful group for impulse control difficulties. However there were significant findings for differences between secure attachment groups and insecure attachment groups for emotion regulation. It was concluded that attachment style plays a key role in emotion regulation, including whether those regulations are positive or negative. Further research should be conducted using a more diverse sample, with a focus on gender in order to identity the role of attachment style better.

According to recent research early childhood interactions with caregivers have a profound influence over our capacities for emotion regulation later in life (Diamond, Hicks & Otter-Henderson, 2006). In fact these early interactions not only influence cognitive-behavioural aspects of emotion regulation, but also physiological processes such as sensitivity to stress and managing stress related metabolic demands (Diamond, Hicks & Otter-Henderson). Attachment styles can be described as “trait-like expectations concerning the responsiveness of attachment figures” (Diamond, Hicks & Otter-Henderson) and are formed by our experiences with caregivers during childhood. More importantly these attachment styles have been used as a method for classifying different capacities and strategies for emotion regulation (Mikulincer, Shaver, & Pereg, 2003). The original model for attachment theory proposed by Hazan and Shaver (1987) consisted of three factors; these were known as secure, anxious-ambivalent and avoidant (Cooper, Shaver & Collins, 1998). Secure attachment in adults can be defined by the characteristics of self confidence, social adeptness and stability in long term relationships (Cooper, Shaver & Collins). When parents are consistently responsive, children are likely to develop this secure attachment whereby they openly communicate their emotions and form a readiness to rely on their parent when distressed (Gentzler, Kerns & Keener, 2010). Adults categorised as avoidant display signs of awkwardness when dealing with closeness to others. They are also less likely to enter long term relationships and are generally socially inept (Cooper, Shaver & Collins). Children with unresponsive parents are more likely to develop avoidant attachments (Gentzler, Kerns & Keener). Anxious-ambivalent adults are likely to lack self confidence and show signs of jealousy, anger and fear of rejection or abandonment. Despite the perils they experience in romantic relationships are they eager to enter them and are prone to fall in love quickly and indiscriminately (Cooper, Shaver & Collins). Inconsistent parenting may lead to anxious-ambivalent attachments. The 3-factor model previously mentioned was prevalent in attachment theory. However Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) developed a 4-factor model to better explain adult attachment where avoidant attachment is divided into separate categories; fearful and dismissing. Bartholomew and Horowitz suggested that the original avoidant category may “obscure conceptually separable patterns of avoidance in adulthood” (Bartholomew and Horowitz). Anxious-ambivalent is...
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