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Aims: To identify the psychosocial correlates of adolescents.
Methods: Unmarried university students (n = 4226) aged 18–23 years were examined in a questionnaire survey.
Results: Four clusters of people (indifferent, secure, fearful, and preoccupied) identified by cluster analysis were plotted in 2-D using discriminant function analysis with the first function (father's and mother's Care, Cooperativeness, and family Cohesion on the positive end and Harm Avoidance and father's and mother's Overprotection on the negative end) representing the Self-model and the second function (Reward Dependence and experience of Peer Victimization on the positive end and Self-directedness on the negative end) representing the Other model.
Conclusions: These findings partially support Bartholomew's notion that adult attachment is based on the good versus bad representations of the self and the other and that it is influenced by psychosocial environments experienced over the course of development.
ACCORDING TO ATTACHMENT theory as proposed by Bowlby, mental representations of self and other emerge from early relationships with caregivers – usually but not necessarily the mother – and act as a guide for subsequent close or intimate relationships.1–3 Empirical support for the classifications of child attachment styles was provided by Ainsworth et al.4 Recently, researchers have applied the concept of attachment to the relationship of ado lescents and young adults.5–10 Studies using measures of adult attachment have found similar attachment styles in adult relationships.
Few studies have investigated how the adult attachment styles are formed. Because the original concept of attachment of infants emphasized the importance of the mother–child relationship, such studies on the correlates of adult attachment styles also focused on parental rearing of the person as a child as a main determinant of their later adult attachment style.11 Thus many researchers reported that secure adult attachment was associated with warm parental attitudes towards the person as a child.7,9,12–14
Candidates for determinants of adult attachment are not limited to the parent–child relationship, which may be suggested from a retrospective assessment of caregivers' attitudes to the child, but also to other intrafamilial and extrafamilial variables. Anexample of an intrafamilial variable is family function. An example of extrafamilial variables is early life events. Family function has recently been studied for its relationship to adult attachment.15–21 Life events experienced as a child may affect the formation of adult attachment. Matsuoka et al. reported that women's adult attachment was predicted by Top Star experiences (e.g. being elected a class leader) and fewer relocation experiences (e.g. moving and changing schools).22 Because attachment theory indicates that attachment is a determinant of relating patterns in adulthood, attachment style may also be associated with personality. For example, Diehl et al. studied such associations and reported that people with a secure attachment style scored higher on personality variables indicative of self-confidence, psychological well-being, and functioning in the social world.16
Of clinical as well as research importance is the question of the categorization of adult attachment styles. Bartholomew and Horowitz divided adult attachment styles into four types (secure, preoccupied, fearful, and dismissing) and two models (self vs other) based on theoretical consideration and empiric data.6 In those types the secure attachment is characterized by good self model and good other model; the preoccupied attachment by poor self model and good other model; the fearful attachment by poor self model and poor other model; and the dismissing attachment by good self model and poor other model. This resulted in the development of their Relationship Questionnaire (RQ). Matsuoka et al. performed a factor analysis of the questionnaire using the same data set as the present study and found that only one factor was extracted.22 Matsuoka et al. support a bipolarity of adult attachment styles: the attachment may be secure or insecure.22 However, there still remains the possibility that insecure attachment consists of different types, for two reasons. First, the RQ measures adult attachment using only four items, each representing a different attachment style. The small number of items may result in a single-factor model. Second, insecure attachment styles may be distinct but strongly correlated with each other; thus, they are amalgamated as a single factor when factor-analyzed with the secure attachment item. Therefore, we performed a cluster analysis of the RQ with the number of the clusters set at four, reflecting the theory proposed by Bartholomew and Horowitz.6 The psychosocial determinants of adult attachment were examined using the groupings of people based on a cluster analysis. This may provide us with a better understanding of the psychological characteristics of attachment style. Furthermore, we expected that if, as suggested by Bartholomew and Horowitz,6 the four clusters were derived from the combination of two models – Self and Other –, the location of the four clusters could be mapped on a 2-D space. The scrutiny of the determinants of these two dimensions should suggest how the concepts of self and other are developed.
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Bivariate analyses have suggested that of the four types of adult attachment styles the Secure Attachment score was unique in its associations with the psychosocial variables. In the personality domain, those with the secure attachment style were affectionate (Reward Dependence) and relaxed and energetic (low Harm Avoidance) but impulsive and outgoing (Novelty Seeking). They continued what they started (Persistence). They were less revengeful and more altruistic (Cooperativeness) and felt strong ties with spiritual powers (Self-Transcendence). In intrafamilial domains, they came from a harmonious family and caring parents who respected the children's autonomous decisions. People with either of the three insecure attachment styles were similar to each other in these variables in which all of the three insecure attachment styles were placed in the opposite direction towards the secure attachment style. People with the Fearful and Preoccupied (having a poor other model) groups were characterized by wishful thinking such as a powerful position among their peers (low Self-directedness) while they had more experiences of being bullied at school. These findings are consistent with attachment theory in that the interactions with others in the family context progressively create a guide to healthy attachment with people in social situations. The internal working model of a good attachment style is reflected in personality characteristics.
Our interest was whether the participants could be divided into four clusters reflecting what could be expected from the theory of Bartholomew and Horowitz.6 Cluster analysis with the number of the clusters set at four yielded clusters named Indifferent, Secure, Fearful, and Preoccupied. The latter three clusters showed expected profiles of the RQ scores. The first cluster Indifferent scored low in all four of the RQ items. The students belonging to this cluster had little interest in interpersonal relationships. They were not anxious in approaching others. Nor did they avoid contacting others. Moreover, they showed little interest in intimate relationships. Because the score of the item representing the dismissing style was lower than those of the other three items and because there appeared no cluster scoring high in this item, we considered this cluster to be a variant of the dismissing group in the present population of Japanese university students.
As in the bivariate analyses, although with slight differences, the participants belonging to the Secure cluster were characterized by a more stable temperament, more mature character, more optimal parenting received, and fewer past traumatic experiences. The profiles of psychosocial correlates were similar between the Fearful and Preoccupied clusters and between the Secure and Indifferent clusters. In the discriminant function analysis, Fearful was located away from the other three clusters. The centroid of the Indifferent cluster was located between the Secure cluster and the two other insecure clusters.
We interpreted the two main functions of the discriminant function analysis as representing the Self and Other models. This is because the Secure and Indifferent clusters scored high in the first function, while the Fearful and Preoccupied clusters scored low in the first function. In the second function, the Secure and Preoccupied clusters scored high, while the Fearful and Indifferent clusters scored low. These links are compatible with the theory that the four adult attachment styles are based on a combination of the Self and Other models. One of the aims of the present study was to search for psychosocial determinants of these two models. How do people develop representation of self and other during the early years of life?
The first function of the discriminant function analysis was characterized by low Harm Avoidance, Cooperativeness, parental Care and allowance of children's autonomy, and family Cohesion. Low Harm Avoidance and high Cooperativeness may be personality traits related to self-esteem, self-efficacy, positive interpersonal relationship, and psychological well-being. High Care and low Overprotection are often regarded as determinants of many aspects of better mental health and psychological adjustment.37–39
Family Cohesion is also thought to be a robust determinant of psychological adjustment. In contrast, the family Adaptability lost its significance in predicting either of the functions. Why is family cohesion more important than family adaptability in the development of adult attachment? Rothbaum et al. argued that extremely close ties between a mother and child in a Japanese population are perceived as adaptive, and are more common, and that children experience fewer aversive effects from such relationships than do children in the West.15 The cultural influence should be taken into account in future studies on this topic.
According to the object relation theory, the good self as an internal object is a potent factor of maintaining healthy relationships with others in the social context. The representation of self may gradually develop through a variety of experiences beginning in the early stages of life and later interactions with the family members.40,41 The present results may be, although not conclusive, at least in line with this theory.
The second function of the discriminant function analysis was characterized by Reward Dependence and low Self-directedness, and Peer Victimization. It is contrary to expectation that better other model is linked to low Self-directedness and more Peer Victimization experiences because Self-directedness reflects personality maturation in the ‘you and me’ relationship, and peer victimization42 was reported as a determinant of later development of psychopathology.43–46 Scrutiny of Table 4 suggests that the Self-directedness score was the highest in the Indifferent cluster. People in this cluster may be less interested in relating to others and, as a defense, engage in more wishful thinking. Therefore high scores of Self-directedness in the present study may be a defensive response of people who had poorer models of others. As noted, we used a very short version of the TCI. The aforementioned speculation should be examined in future studies using the full version of the TCI. Again, the association between Peer Victimization and a better Other model may be explained by the fact that the people in the Indifferent cluster scored the lowest in this life event. People in the Fearful and Preoccupied clusters scored higher than those in the Secure cluster in terms of Peer Victimization. Students who had little interest in socialization may avoid peer contact and thus be less likely to become a target of peer victimization.
Limitations of the present study should also be noted. Because the present study is a cross-sectional one, caution should be exercised when making conclusions about causal relationships. While the study suggested that parental styles influence the development of adult attachment, parental style may be determined by better children's attachment with their parents. For example, Belsky and Rovine noted that mothers of infants with secure attachment described them as easier to care for.47 Children's attachment to their peers may also be determined by the occurrence of a variety of events that were not investigated in the present study. Many factors may intervene between parental style and early life events and adult attachment. Future studies should focus on these issues using a longitudinal design. Finally, the present study was based on the assumption that attachment styles were determined by psychosocial factors. However, this does not exclude possible contributions of biological factors such as genetic transmission of adult attachment styles. It has been noted that infants' attachments were due largely or in part to endogenous temperamental variation.48 This may also be the case for adults.
Taken together, the present study has demonstrated that a variety of psychosocial variables are potent determinants of adult attachment. They include intrafamilial and extrafamilial variables: variables that date back to the early days of life and those that are current. Therefore the present study suggests that adult attachment is created over the course of development and echoes Blatt in that the introjection of outer world objects into the human psyche needs an epigenetic course in order for the representation to gain accuracy, articulation, and complexity.40