Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Exploring the Link between Attachment and the Inclination to Obsess about or Stalk Celebrities

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Exploring the Link between Attachment and the Inclination to Obsess about or Stalk Celebrities

Article excerpt

Insecure attachment to one's parents has been shown to contribute to poor adjustment as an adult. We investigated whether insecure attachment in childhood is associated with attachment to celebrities and a tendency to approve of celebrity stalking behaviors. We measured childhood attachment, celebrity worship, and the tendency to condone celebrity stalking in 299 college students. Those who reported insecure attachments as children were more likely to condone behaviors indicative of celebrity stalking. Moreover, those who formed strong attachments to their favorite celebrities (celebrity worshippers) were more likely to condone celebrity stalking than those who were not as strongly attracted to their favorite celebrities. Contrary to the hypothesis, insecure attachment was not significantly associated with attraction to celebrities. Results are discussed in relation to the "Absorption-addiction" model.

Ainsworth's attachment theory (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978) has long enjoyed considerable popularity among developmental psychologists. Attachment theory posits that warm, responsive parenting produces infants who feel secure enough to explore their environment. Parents who are inconsistent in responding to their infants' signals tend to produce children who are anxiously preoccupied with parental attention, and this reduces exploration. Parents who are cold and rejecting tend to produce children who eventually learn to avoid contact with their parents, exploring instead the "neutral world of things" (Ainsworth, et al., 1978, p. 310).

Attachment patterns formed in childhood have been hypothesized to have long-term behavioral effects (Greenberger & McLaughlin, 1998). In an oft-cited study, Hazan and Shaver (1987) found that adult romantic orientations were generally consistent with childhood attachments. Specifically, those who recalled having secure attachments with their parents tended to form secure attachments with their adult partners; those who recalled inconsistent or rejecting parents were less likely to be securely attached to their adult partners. Furthermore, Levitt, Silver, and Franco (1996) found that insecure attachment styles were significantly associated with being involved in a troublesome relationship.

If faulty childhood attachment predisposes one to form faulty adult romantic relationships, might it also contribute to other adult problems? Indeed, insecure attachments have been linked to symptoms of depression (Roberts, Gotlib, & Kessel, 1996; Van Buren & Cooley, 2002), relatively poor quality interactions between mothers and their own children (Crowell & Feldman, 1987), and difficulty in decoding social cues in adult voices (Cooley, 2005). If insecurely attached children are more likely to have relationship difficulties as adults, they might be tempted to form parasocial relationships. A parasocial relationship is one in which person A is attracted to person B, but person B is usually unaware of the existence of person A (Horton & Wohl, 1956; Rubin, Perse, & Powell, 1985). Such a relationship, common to celebrities and their fans, might be appealing to the insecurely attached individual because it makes few demands. The fan does not usually have a "real" relationship with a celebrity, so the fan does not run the risk of criticism or rejection unless he or she seeks contact with the celebrity (Ashe & McCutcheon, 2001).

Many fans are attracted to celebrities for entertainment and/or social reasons (Maltby, Houran, & McCutcheon, 2003), but a substantial number become intensely absorbed in the personal lives of their favorite celebrities (McCutcheon, Ashe, Houran, & Maltby, 2003), and a small number engage in behaviors that might be characterized as pathological (Dietz, et al., 1991; Giles, 2000; McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran, & Ashe, 2004).

McCutcheon, Lange, and Houran (2002) developed an "Absorption-addiction" model to explain celebrity worship. …

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