Impact of attachment styles on dream recall and dream content: a test of the attachment hypothesis of REM sleep


Patrick McNamara PhD, Department of Neurology (127), Boston University School of Medicine and VA New England Healthcare System, 150 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130, USA; email:


We tested the hypothesis (McNamara 1996; Zborowski and McNamara 1998) that dream recall and dream content would pattern with interpersonal attachment styles. In study I, college student volunteers were assessed on measures of attachment, dream recall, dream content and other psychologic measures. Results showed that participants who were classified as ‘high’ on an ‘insecure attachment’ scale were significantly more likely to (a) report a dream, (b) dream ‘frequently’, and (c) evidence more intense images that contextualize strong emotions in their dreams as compared with participants who scored low on the insecure attachment scale. In study II, 76 community dwelling elderly volunteers completed measures of attachment, and dream recall. Participants whose attachment style was classified as ‘preoccupied’ were significantly more likely to report a dream and to report dreams with higher mean number of words per dream as compared with participants classified as ‘securely’ attached or as ‘avoidant’ or as ‘dismissing.’ Dream recall was lowest for the avoidant subjects and highest for the preoccupied subjects. These data support the view that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and/or dreaming function, in part, to promote attachment.