Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Brief Report: Factor Structure of the Experiences in Close Relationships with Gay and Lesbian Individuals

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Brief Report: Factor Structure of the Experiences in Close Relationships with Gay and Lesbian Individuals

Article excerpt

The mentality of society with regards to same-sex relationships has become more liberal over the past few years and this has been reflected in governmental attitudes and actions. For example, Statistics Canada reports that the number of self-identified gay men, lesbians and bisexuals has increased by 13% to 20% between 2003 and 2008 (depending on the group) to 2.1% for Canadian men and 1.8% for Canadian women (Statistics Canada, 2008). Furthermore, in 2005, the Government of Canada redefined civil marriage as "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others", thus recognizing the union of same-sex couples (Hurley, 2005, p. 4). In the United States, the National Center for Health Statistics reported lifetime rates of same-sex sexual activity of 11% for women and 6% for men (National Center for Health Statistics, 2008). Although same-sex marriage is not currently accepted under the Defense of Marriage Act in the United States, both California and Massachusetts have recognized this union. There has also been a renewed interest in same-sex intimate relationships in the scientific community but most research to date used measures which have not been validated for this population. The present study takes a first step toward the validation of a measure of romantic attachment with same-sex couples by examining the factor structure and reliability of the Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR; Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998) using a sample of gay and lesbian individuals. Same-sex couples have the same rights to evidence-based treatments as heterosexual couples, and this cannot be achieved without validating the instruments used to empirically support treatment interventions.

Several legislative bodies have proposed guidelines for working with minority populations. On one hand, psychologists have the ethical responsibility of using validated instruments when assessing individuals for both research and clinical purposes. For example, the American Psychological Association's Code of Conduct states that psychologists must "use assessment instruments whose validity and reliability have been established for use with members of the population tested" (American Psychological Association, 2002, p. 13). On the other hand, clinicians are encouraged to use validated theoretical frameworks and empirically supported interventions that are relevant to the specific needs of their clients (Canadian Psychological Association, 2000). As a number of empirically based therapeutic approaches are founded on the concept of attachment, such as Interpersonal Psychotherapy (Teyber, 2006) and Emotionally Focused Therapy (Johnson, 2004) clinicians need a validated measure of adult attachment to assess attachment-related difficulties and to formulate therapeutic objectives when working with a population of gay and lesbian individuals.

The attachment theory, developed by Bowlby (1969/1982), explains the type of relation formed between an infant and his/her primary caregiver. The theory states that the level of consistency at which the caregiver is available and able to satisfy the child's need for reassurance determines, to a large extent, whether a secure or insecure attachment will be formed, in other words, whether a positive or negative internal model of self and others will be developed. According to Bowlby, the attachment system is present over the entire lifespan and is manifested by seeking the proximity of attachment figures in times of need or threat (Bowlby, 1988). The concept of attachment was empirically supported by Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall's (1978) famous Strange Situation task. Ainsworth et al. (1978) identified three patterns of attachment between infants and caregivers: secure, anxious and avoidant, which were later recognized as an appropriate conceptualization for adolescent and adult attachment by Hazan and Shaver (1987). In 1990, Bartholomew introduced a four-category model of attachment: secure (low anxiety, low avoidance), preoccupied (high anxiety, low avoidance), dismissing (low anxiety, high avoidance), and fearful (high anxiety, high avoidance) based on the notion that both attachment anxiety and avoidance can be found in adults in varying degrees. …

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