Bowlby’s studies were primarily focused on understanding the infant/caregiver relationship. He used the term “attachment” to describe the effective bond that develops between the infant and primary caregiver. He believed the quality of attachment developed over time and the type of attachment would have an affect on the developing child.
Later research explored the possibility that a person’s attachment style during childhood might influence his or her outlook and perception of romantic partners in adulthood.
In the late 1980s researchers Coyne and DeLongis and Rook and Pietromonaco found that Romantic partners can give each other support, security and happiness on the one hand, but on the other, they can generate much distress, anxiety and insecurity in a relationship.
Haven and Shaver, in 1987 suggested that the formation, maintenance and dissolution of affectional bonds in romantic relationships can be understood using the same principles outlined in respect to infant attachment processes.
Jeffrey Simpson, in 1990 confirmed most of Hazan and Shaver’s results using a sample of 144 dating couples. However, they found that ‘attachment styles’ of one partner did not necessarily match the ‘attachment style’ of the other
Love Test and Attachment
Another test related to this type of research (still ongoing) is the Love Test (a questionnaire of 68 items) developed by Betty Harris and Jim Glover in 1996.
There are two versions of this test, the Concept Version (designed to assess what people think love is) and the Experience version (designed to assess peoples’ experience of love).
By September 1996, there had been 8848 respondents to the Concept Version and 5812 respondents to the Experience Version. This survey is still being analysed however it is interesting to note some of the results already published in relation to this current study.
51.3% of the respondents were female, 48.7% male. The mean age being: 25.2 years. 90% had been together 6 years or less, 94% 10 years or less and 3% had been together over 15 years. Respondents were from various countries throughout the world thought he majority were from the USA and Canada.
Attachment Theories and the Love Test
Hazan and Shaver reported no gender differences in attachment style in their studies, however, what was found in the Love Test is that there tended to be more females who selected the ‘secure’ or the ‘Avoidant attachment’ styles than would be expected by chance and more males who selected the ‘anxious/ambivalent’ attachment style than would be expected by chance.
Also, with regard to passion, intimacy and commitment, securely attached respondents scored significantly higher than did either Avoidant or Anxious/Ambivalent respondents.
Research has found, therefore, that during social development, people seem to construct internal affective/cognitive models both of themselves and of others. These mental models appear to organise the development of personality as well as influencing subsequent social behaviour and love attachments formed in adulthood.
- Bowlby, J. Attachment and loss. Vol. New York: Basic Books. 1992
- Bowlby, J. Attachment and loss. Vol 2: Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books. 1973
- Bee, Helen L. The Developing Child. 7th ed. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers. 1995.
- Kagan, Jerome. The Nature of the Child. New York: Basic Books. 1994.