The research on adult attachment has demonstrated that some, but not all, adult relationships function like attachment relationships. As a result, adults exhibit individual differences in attachment relationships just like young children do.
Research on adult attachment styles has shown that there are two dimensions on which these styles develop. One dimension is attachment-related anxiety. Those who are high on this dimension are more insecure and worried about their relationship partner’s availability and attentiveness. The other dimension is attachment-related avoidance. Those who are high on this dimension have difficulty opening up and being vulnerable with significant others. Interestingly, recent research into child attachment patterns have also discovered that like adults, children’s attachment styles tend to vary along the dimensions of anxiety and avoidance, demonstrating that attachment styles at different ages are based on similar factors.
Here are some questions used in the Attachment Style Interview: Source: aai_interview
1. Could you start by helping me get oriented to your early family situation, and where you lived and so on?
If you could tell me where you were born, whether you moved around much, what your family did at various times for a living?
2. I’d like you to try to describe your relationship with your parents as a young child if you could start from as far back as you can remember?
3. Now I’d like to ask you to choose five adjectives or words that reflect your relationship with your mother starting from as far back as you can remember in early childhood–as early as you can go, but say, age 5 to 12 is fine. I know this may take a bit of time, so go ahead and think for a minute…then I’d like to ask you why you chose them. I’ll write each one down as you give them to me.
4. Now I’d like to ask you to choose five adjectives or words that reflect your childhood relationship with your father, again starting from as far back as you can remember in early childhood–as early as you can go, but again say, age 5 to 12 is fine. I know this may take a bit of time, so go ahead and think again for a minute…then I’d like to ask you why you chose them. I’ll write each one down as you give them to me.
5. Now I wonder if you could tell me, to which parent did you feel the closest, and why? Why isn’t there this feeling with the other parent?
6. When you were upset as a child, what would you do?
8. Did you ever feel rejected as a young child? Of course, looking back on it now, you may realize it wasn’t really rejection, but what I’m trying to ask about here is whether you remember ever having rejected in childhood
9. Were your parents ever threatening with you in any way – maybe for discipline, or even jokingly?
10. In general, how do you think your overall experiences with your parents have affected your adult personality?
11. Why do you think your parents behaved as they did during your childhood?
12. Were there any other adults with whom you were close, like parents, as a child?
13. Did you experience the loss of a parent or other close loved one while you were a young child–for example, a sibling, or a close family member?
14. Other than any difficult experiences you’ve already described, have you had any other experiences which you should regard as potentially traumatic?
15. Now 1’d like to ask you a few more questions about your relationship with your pants. Were there many changes in your relationship with your parents (or remaining parent) after childhood? We’ll get to the present in a moment, but right now 1 mean changes occurring roughly between your childhood and your adulthood?
16. Now I’d like to ask you, what is your relationship with your parents (or remaining parent) like for you now as an adult? Here I am asking about your current relationship.
17. I’d like to move now to a different sort of question–it’s not about your relationship with your parents, instead it’s about an aspect of your current relationship with (specific child of special interest to the researcher, or all the participant’s children considered together). How do you respond now, in terms of feelings, when you separate from your child / children?
There are four adult attachment styles:
Those who have a secure attachment style score low on both anxiety and avoidance. They trust that those they have close relationships with will be there to offer support and security when needed and are prepared to offer security and support when their partners need it in return. They find it easy to open up in relationships and are good at articulating what they want and need from their partners. They’re confident and optimistic about their relationships and tend to find them stable and satisfying.
Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
Those with an anxious preoccupied attachment style are high on the anxiety dimension but low on the avoidance dimension. These individuals have difficulty trusting their partners’ commitment to them. Because they are more pessimistic and worried about their relationships, they often need reassurance from their partners and will create or overemphasize conflicts. They may also have issues with jealousy. As a result, their relationships are often tumultuous.
Dismissive Avoidant Attachment
Those with a dismissive avoidant attachment style are low on the anxiety dimension but high on the avoidance dimension. People with this kind of attachment style are often aloof and emotionally distant in relationships. They may claim they fear commitment. These individuals may seek to assert their independence by delving into individual activities like work, hobbies, or social activities that don’t involve their significant others. They may come across as focused only on themselves and may have passive aggressive tendencies.
Fearful Avoidant Attachment
Those with a fearful avoidant attachment style are high in both anxiety and avoidance. These individuals both fear and desire intimate relationships. On the one hand, they want the support and security that comes from having a significant other. On the other, they worry their significant other will hurt them and at other times feel stifled by the relationship. As a result, people with a fearful avoidant attachment style can be inconsistent towards their partners from day to day, and their ambivalent attitude can lead to chaos.