Attachment Styles and Adolescent Sexuality
Jessica L. Tracy
Phillip R. Shaver
University of California, Davis
Austin W. Albino
M. Lynne Cooper
University of Missouri, Columbia
For many adolescents, the teen years are a time of intense challenge and change, even though theorists continue to argue about the applicability of the German phrase stürm und drang(“storm and stress”; Hall, 1904) to adolescence (e.g., Arnett, 1999; OVer & Schonert-Reichl, 1992). According to Arnett (1999), adolescence is the developmental period during which individuals are most likely to face the triple strain of conflict with parents, severe mood swings, and a propensity toward risk-taking. For many adolescents, romantic relationships are an important source of extreme feelings, both positive and negative (Larson & Asmussen, 1991). The typical adolescent is moving away from parents as primary attachment figures, relying more on the opinions and support of peers, and—whether consciously or not—moving toward a time when his or her primary attachment figure will be a lover or spouse rather than a parent (Hazan & Zeifman, 1994, 1999). Adolescents typically experience emotional turmoil in connection with romantic relationships—those they have, those that go awry, and those they fantasize (Larson, Clore, & Wood, 1999).
Across adolescence, the time spent with peers in general and opposite-sex peers in particular increases substantially, and the time spent with family members decreases proportionally—by 60% from fifth to twelfth grade (Larson, Richards, Moneta, Holmbeck, & Duckett, 1996; Sharabany, Gershoni, & Hofman, 1981). In addition, teens begin to use each other as sources of support and intimacy as well as amusement and entertainment (Furman & Wehner, 1994; Hazan & Zeifman, 1994). This change is part of the gradual, documented shift of primary attachment from parents to peers (Fraley & Davis, 1997; Trinke & Bartholomew, 1997).