Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Adult Attachment Styles, Self-Esteem and Satisfaction with Interpersonal Relationships among African Americans

Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Adult Attachment Styles, Self-Esteem and Satisfaction with Interpersonal Relationships among African Americans

Article excerpt

Literature Review

Is there a relationship between one's reported attachment style, self-esteem, and whether or not one is in a satisfying relationship? Psychologists have long been interested in attachment styles and have investigated how they relate to emotional development, self-esteem and social competence (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall, 1978; Bowlby, 1982; Cassidy, 1998; Carlson & Sroufe, 1995). Research has shown that emotions and relational behavior patterns are influenced by the type of attachment that one develops with one's parents and can impact future relationships (Ainsworth, 1978; Bowlby, 1987). When considering attachment styles for African Americans, especially as it relates to satisfaction in adult relationships and self-esteem, research is scant. Research examining attachment styles for African Americans has tended to focus on the role of attachment in low income mothers' perceptions of social support (Green, Furrer, & McAllister, 2011), how attachment impacts risk of antisocial behavior among adolescents (Arbona & Power, 2003), and how attachment relates to well-being in late adulthood (Merz & Consedine, 2012).

Attachment theory research in general has found that those with secure attachment styles tend to feel comfortable in forming close relationships and being able to depend on others; those with an avoidant style feel uncomfortable getting close and depending on others, and those with an anxious style are often worried and reluctant about having a close relationship and dependency on others (Hazan & Shaver, 1987). Some researchers have found that adult attachment can be used to predict the quality of romantic relationships (Cann, Norman, Welbourne, & Calhoun, 2008). One study that looked at college students' diaries of their social interactions found that students with secure adult attachment orientations reported higher levels of intimacy and enjoyment than did their more avoidant peers; and they exhibited more stable levels of positive emotions than did their more anxious-ambivalent counterparts (Tidwell, Reis, & Shaver, 1996). Other research has shown that those who report having more satisfying adult relationships tend to have a secure attachment style, rather than insecure styles (Simpson, Rholes, Phillips, 1996; Creasy & Hesson-McInnis, 2001).

When examining racial differences in attachment styles between African Americans and Whites, Turnage (2004) found higher levels of avoidant attachment for African American college students than for Caucasian students (Russell, Wei, Mallinckrodt & Zakalik, 2004). In another study, more secure attachment styles were reported among white, female, well-educated, middle-class, married participants when compared to African Americans for these same demographics (Mickleson, K., Kessler, R., & Shaver, P. (1997). Also, Magai, C., Cohen, C., Milburn, N., Thorpe, B., McPherson, R., & Peralta, D. (2001) reported that among the elderly (those over aged 65) African Americans were more likely to have insecure attachment styles than European Americans. Although these studies show differences in attachment styles between African Americans and Whites, an important question that needs to be addressed is whether or not such attachment styles are related to how African Americans feel about themselves and their satisfaction in adult relationships?

Differences in family structure for African Americans and other factors related to attachment could influence their perceptions of satisfaction in relationships. Statistics show that among African Americans, there are fewer married African American females than European American females, and there is an increase in the number of children raised by single African American parents (U.S. Census, 2004). Lopez, Melendez, and Rice (2000) examined the influence of race and marital status on attachment measures. They found that, in general (for both African American and Whites), those from divorced or separated homes described their early relationships with their parents as being less warm and caring than those from intact families. …

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