An Interpersonal Analysis of Adult Attachment Style: Circumplex Descriptions, Recalled Developmental Experiences, Self-Representations, and Interpersonal Functioning in Adulthood


  • Preparation of this article was supported, in part, by NIH Grant HL07560. We thank Lorna Smith-Benjamin, Paul Florsheim, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

and reprint requests should be addressed to Linda C. Gallo, SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, 6363 Alvarado Court, Suite 103, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, 92120. Electronic mail may be sent to


Previous research suggests that the structure of adult attachment is dimensional, but the specific dimensions remain unclear. Given its relational nature, studies should examine attachment structure in association with conceptually related interpersonal constructs. The interpersonal model (Kiesler, 1996) provides an integrative framework to examine this structure and associations between dimensions of attachment security (i.e., Anxiety and Avoidance) and: 1) the dimensions of the interpersonal circumplex, 2) the five-factor model of personality, 3) recollections of mothers and fathers, and 4) current self-processes and adult social functioning. In two samples of undergraduates, the Anxiety and Avoidance dimensions were associated with a hostile-submissive interpersonal style. Canonical correlation analyses revealed that dimensions representing combinations of Anxiety and Avoidance, and roughly corresponding to the dimensions from Secure (i.e., low Anxiety and Avoidance) to Fearful (i.e., high Anxiety and Avoidance) attachment and from Preoccupied (i.e., high Anxiety and low Avoidance) to Dismissive (i.e., low Anxiety and high Avoidance) attachment related to the interpersonal constructs. The Secure to Fearful dimension (i.e., overall attachment security) seemed to share relatively more variance with the interpersonal constructs. These dimensions were associated with theoretically consistent characteristics, recollections of early experiences with parents, self-representations, and social functioning.