Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Relationship Maintenance Strategy Use by Romantic Attachment Style

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Relationship Maintenance Strategy Use by Romantic Attachment Style

Article excerpt

As social beings, the quality of one's relationships contributes greatly to individual development, growth, and overall wellbeing. Positive relationships are likely to result in positive outcomes. For example, social support from relatives and peers has been found to influence the development of self-efficacy and self-esteem by fostering confidence, cheerfulness, personal adjustment, feelings of importance, self-worth, and social competence (Connor, Povrazli, Ferrer-Wreder, & Grahame, 2004; Finn & Rock, 1997). Additionally, social support that includes strong attachment bonds and supportive behavior has been implicated in maintaining physical and mental health (Dalgard, Bjork, & Tambs, 1995).

Attachment Style

Attachment relationships continue to be important throughout the lifespan (Ainsworth, 1982, 1989). Bartholomew and Shaver (1998) conceptualized four adult attachment styles, including secure, fearful-avoidant, dismissive-avoidant, and preoccupied. As presented in Table 1, each attachment style reflects subjective views of self and others as either positive or negative, as well as a characteristic level of anxiety and avoidance experienced (Bartholomew & Shaver, 1998; Brennan et al., 1998). For example, adults classified with a secure attachment style maintain a positive view of self and others, have low anxiety about abandonment, and demonstrate little avoidance of emotional intimacy (Bartholomew & Shaver, 1998; Brennan et al., 1998). Individuals classified with a preoccupied style of adult attachment maintain a negative view of self but a positive view of others, experience high anxiety about being abandoned, and practice little avoidance of intimacy. An adult with a dismissive style of attachment maintains a positive view of self, a negative view of others, experiences low anxiety about abandonment, and practices high amounts of intimate avoidance. Finally, those classified in adulthood as fearful maintain a negative view of self and others, high anxiety about being abandoned, yet simultaneously engage in high amounts of intimate avoidance.

Significant and predictable relationships between adult attachment styles and romantic relationships have been identified by past researchers (Feeney & Noller, 1990; Hazan & Shaver, 1987). For example, those with a secure attachment style described their romantic relationships as happy, trusting, friendly, and long lasting. Anxiously attached individuals described their relationships as emotionally labile, dependent, jealous, and lonely. They reported an ongoing desire for relational reciprocity and had the least enduring relationships. Finally, individuals with avoidant attachment styles described their relationships by extreme fears of closeness, lack of trust, and defensive distancing. They reported feeling the lowest intensity of love and were more likely to say they had never been in love.

Relationship Maintenance

Of specific interest within the current study are the relationships between adult attachment style and the relationship maintenance strategies used by those within romantic relationships. Also of interest are the relational outcomes experienced by those using specific relationship maintenance strategies. The theory of relationship maintenance explains how partners keep relationships at a satisfactory level in balance and stability while nurturing protective coping during good and bad times (Dindia, 2003), and the quality and nature of relationships are influenced by the type of maintenance behaviors used by one or both partners (Ayres, 1983).

Researchers differ in their conceptualization of relationship maintenance, with some choosing to focus on keeping the relationship intact and others focusing on relationship quality (Ayres, 1983; Baxter & Dindia, 1990; Bell, Daly, & Gonzalez 1987; Canary & Stafford, 1992; Messman, Canary, & Hause, 2000; Stafford, Dainton, & Haas, 2000). …

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