Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Adult Attachment Orientations and Subjective Well-Being: Emotional Intelligence and Self-Esteem as Moderators

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Adult Attachment Orientations and Subjective Well-Being: Emotional Intelligence and Self-Esteem as Moderators

Article excerpt

In his attachment theory, Bowlby (1969/1982) posits that early experiences with primary caregivers are critical for human emotional and cognitive development. Although attachment behaviors in early childhood are particularly prominent, attachment is an important component of human experience from the cradle to the grave (Bowlby, 1979). Hazan and Shaver (1987) extended attachment theory to adult romantic relationships, and conceptualized romantic love, or pair bonding, as an attachment process. Following on from Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall (1978), subsequent researchers revealed that attachment orientations in adulthood can be measured along two orthogonal dimensions: anxiety and avoidance (e.g., Bartholomew & Shaver, 1998), and each attachment orientation was connected with a unique pattern of emotion regulation (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007).

Subjective well-being (SWB) is defined as individuals' evaluations of their lives, according to dimensions including life satisfaction, pleasant affect, and infrequent unpleasant affect (Diener, 1994). Researchers have shown that attachment theory is a valid framework for understanding individual variations in happiness (Mikulincer, Shaver, & Pereg, 2003), and many have provided empirical evidence to support the idea that good quality family relationships may contribute to a sense of well-being. For example, secure attachment has been found to be positively correlated with well-being (Abubakar et al., 2013), whereas attachment anxiety and avoidance both have been demonstrated to be negatively correlated with life satisfaction and well-being (Lavy & Littman-Ovadia, 2011).

According to Salovey and Mayer (1989), emotional intelligence (EI) consists of three categories of adaptive abilities: appraisal and expression of emotion, regulation of emotion, and utilization of emotion in solving problems. Researchers have long proposed that adult attachment orientations exert considerable influence over EI (e.g., Kim, 2005), and, as a set of abilities to process and understand emotions, EI has an important impact on an individual's happiness level (e.g., Schutte & Malouff, 2011).

Global self-esteem is conceptualized as an individual's positive or negative attitude toward the self as a totality, and this attitude has an important influence on individual behavior and mental health (Rosenberg, 1965). It has been proposed that attachment experiences are important for the shaping of individuals' self-image, and ultimately influence their ability to regulate emotion (e.g., Bowlby, 1973). Likewise, in the past few decades, researchers have stressed the importance of self-esteem influencing happiness, and view self-esteem as one of the strongest predictor variables of well-being (e.g., Diener & Diener, 1995).

Although previous researchers have shown the direct association of adult attachment orientations with SWB (e.g., Abubakar et al., 2013), little is known about the mechanisms underlying them. Therefore, in this study, we built a multiple mediation model based on attachment theory, especially the role of adult attachment in emotion regulation (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). We hypothesized that (a) EI and self-esteem would mediate the negative association between adult attachment orientations and SWB, and (b) a serial mediating role of EI via self-esteem would be found in this link.


Participants and Procedure

Using cluster random sampling method, we recruited 585 undergraduates (315 men and 270 women aged 17 to 25 years, M = 20.00, SD = 1.11), from South China Normal University and Guangdong University of Petrochemical Technology. We administered the questionnaires during the class break, and they were returned on the spot. Because the whole questionnaire included five sections, participants completed the paper-and-pencil version in two phases, with an interval of almost two weeks between each, to ensure test quality. Standardized instructions were given in each test phase, and participants were asked to make their self-evaluation independently. …

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