Measuring Lifestyle and Attachment: An Empirical Investigation Linking Individual Psychology and Attachment Theory

By Peluso, Paul R.; Peluso, Jennifer P. et al. | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Measuring Lifestyle and Attachment: An Empirical Investigation Linking Individual Psychology and Attachment Theory


Peluso, Paul R., Peluso, Jennifer P., Buckner, Janine P., Kern, Roy M., Curlette, William, Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


Psychodynamic theories of personality have endured over the decades, beginning with Sigmund Freud (Bankhart, 1997). Although many theorists subsequently refined or replaced Freud's initial theory, one element remains consistent throughout psychodynamic thought: human behavior is guided by patterns that are developed from early experiences (Bankhart, 1997). Two theories of personality that originally arose from the psychodynamic perspective are individual psychology, developed by Alfred Adler (1964) in the 1920s and 1930s, and attachment theory, developed initially by John Bowlby (1988) in the 1940s and 1950s. Proponents of each of these theories attempt to explain an individual's methods of relating to others, viewing the world, and governing behavior (Adler, 1964; Bowlby, 1988). Individual psychology clinicians refer to these governing behaviors or personality dynamics as lifestyle (or style of life; the terms are used interchangeably in the literature), whereas attachment theorists describe these dynamics as attachment styles. Yet few comparisons have been made between these two major constructs (Jones & Lyddon, 2003; Watts & Shulman, 2003). Peluso, Peluso, White, and Kern (2004) reviewed the theoretical constructs underlying the similarities of the two approaches. Specifically, they suggested that the individual psychology construct of lifestyle and the construct of attachment style should be empirically investigated. Through the present research, our intention is to provide an empirical analysis of the convergence between the concepts of lifestyle and attachment style and to compare the methods for assessing these concepts.

Relationship of Adult Attachment Style to Lifestyle

During the 1990s and 2000s, an increasing number of theorists have used attachment theory as an explanatory framework for various psychological disorders of childhood and adulthood (Bartholomew & Shaver, 1998; Peluso, Peluso, White, et al., 2004). According to Bowlby (1988), attachments are close, intensely emotional relationships that form between infants and one or two close, caretaking individuals. These attachments can be either secure or insecure, based on the quality of the interaction between adult(s) and the child. The quality of children's attachment relationships determines the level of security with which children explore the environment and the degree of protection perceived by children when stress or danger is present (Bowlby, 1988). These perceptions form the template from which the young individual develops future relationships in adulthood. Thus, attachment style has been theorized to remain stable throughout the life span (Bowlby, 1969).

According to attachment theorists, children form internal working models of self and others early in their interactions with their caretakers (Sroufe, 1988) and carry these models with them as they get older (Benoit & Parker, 1994). These mental schemas, then, serve as a foundation for the expectations and beliefs from which individuals operate in their close relationships in adulthood. Indeed, there are many similarities between categories o f adult attachment styles (Fraley & Shaver, 2000) and Ainsworth, Blehar, Waiters, and Wall's (1978) classifications of infant attachment (see Griffin & Bartholomew, 1994a, 1994b; Hazan & Shaver, 1987, 1990). Moreover, both infant and adult attachment may represent instantiations of the same adaptive mechanisms (behavioral and emotional) to help the individual survive by fostering nurturance and protection, a process that ensures health and well-being (Fraley & Shaver, 2000). A secure attachment between an infant and a caregiver ensures that the survival needs of the infant will be met. In a similar vein, secure adult attachments are an integral part of romantic love that ensure caregiving and intimacy toward others.

Overall, it seems that the central principles that define attachment style are similar to the core elements of the Adlerian concept of lifestyle (Peluso, Peluso, White, et al.

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