Parent Characteristics Linked with Daughters' Attachment Styles

By Kilmann, Peter R.; Vendemia, Jennifer M. C. et al. | Adolescence, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Parent Characteristics Linked with Daughters' Attachment Styles

Kilmann, Peter R., Vendemia, Jennifer M. C., Parnell, Michele M., Urbaniak, Geoffrey C., Adolescence

Attachment theory, based upon the early work of John Bowlby (1969, 1973, 1977, 1980), holds that infants' initial experiences of attachment become cognitively represented in the form of internal "working models" of the self and others. These mental models incorporate expectations about self-worth, and the extent to which others are accessible and responsive in providing support and protection. These models continue to develop over time (Koren-Karie, 2000).

Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) proposed four adult attachment patterns (secure, preoccupied, fearful-avoidant, dismissive-avoidant), which reduce to dimensions of anxiety (about abandonment) and avoidance (discomfort with closeness), or to models of self and others. Secure adults think positively of themselves and others, and are comfortable with intimacy and autonomy. Individuals with a preoccupied-attachment pattern hold others in a higher regard than themselves and are overly concerned about abandonment. Fearful-avoidants seek intimacy but fear rejection and have difficulty trusting others. Dismissive-avoidant individuals think positively of themselves but tend to view others negatively.

Research has found differences between individuals according to their attachment pattern. In contrast with insecures, secures report more positive self-esteem and regard for others, greater maturity, and feel comfortable engaging in friendship and intimate relationships with others without fear of closeness or distance (Sharpsteen & Kirkpatrick, 1997). Among insecures, preoccupieds report low self-esteem, and feelings of dependency, jealousy, and desperateness in a relationship (Collins, 1993; Feeney & Noller, 1990; Hindy & Schwarz, 1994; Williams & Schill, 1994). They experience anxiety and anger over perceived abandonment (Dutton, Saunders, Starzomski, & Bartholomew, 1994) but resist anger expression (Sharpsteen & Kirkpatrick, 1997). Avoidant individuals hold distrustful perceptions of others (Carranza & Kilmann, 2000; Collins & Read, 1990; Feeney & Noller, 1990), turn anger and blame against others (Sharpsteen & Kirkpatrick, 1997), and tend to be shy, nonassertive, and distant (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991).

Attachment theory assumes that a prototype for expectations from adult friendship or romantic relationships develops from early relationships with parent figures or caregivers (Shaver & Hazan, 1994). In this regard, Main, Kaplan, and Cassidy (1985) found that adults could be classified into different attachment patterns based upon their retrospective reports of childhood relationships with their parents. Securely attached individuals had more positive memories and valued their parents to a greater extent than did insecures. Avoidant adults recalled parents as being distant, rejecting, or unavailable when needed. Hazan and Shaver (1987) found that secure individuals reported closer relationships with parents than insecures. Jones, Forehand, and Beach (2000) found that higher levels of both paternal firm control and maternal acceptance were linked with the most secure attachment in early adulthood. Individuals with an avoidant attachment pattern described mothers as cold and rejecting. Bringle and Bagby (1992) found that avoidants reported inconsistent mothers and cold fathers. Feeney and Noller (1990) found that preoccupied individuals recalled being close to parents but were annoyed by their lack of support. Parents of children reporting avoidant-attachment tend to be more neglectful and less supportive in their parenting (Karavasilis, Doyle & Markiewiz, 2003; Rholes, Simpson, & Blakely, 1995). Daughters who rated their mothers and fathers as reflecting negative parenting characteristics, such as being absent or distant, were more likely to report preoccupied and dismissive attachment styles (Carranza & Kilmann, 2000; Kilmann, Carranza & Vendemia, 2006).

Parenting style has been defined as a parent's attitude toward the child in various situations in which parenting practices (goal-directed behaviors) and emotion (non-goal-directed behaviors) are expressed (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). …

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