From the Cradle to the Grave: Age Differences in Attachment From Early Adulthood to Old Age

Authors


  • The first author was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
  • We thank Ethan Kross and members of the Personality, Cognition, and Emotion lab for their comments on earlier versions of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to William J. Chopik, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Email: chopik@umich.edu.

Abstract

Objective

Although attachment dynamics are thought to be important across the life span, relatively few studies have examined attachment processes beyond young adulthood. Extant research on age differences in attachment orientation has yielded conflicting results and interpretations. The purpose of this study was to provide a more complete picture of age-related differences in attachment anxiety and avoidance.

Method

We examined attachment anxiety and avoidance in 86,555 Internet respondents (71.8% female) ranging in age from 18 to 70.

Results

We found that attachment anxiety was highest among younger adults and lowest among middle-aged and older adults. Attachment avoidance showed less dramatic age differences overall but was highest among middle-aged adults and lowest among younger and older adults. In addition, partnered individuals reported lower levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance compared to single individuals, particularly in younger and older adulthood. Women also reported slightly higher anxiety and avoidance compared to men, especially in young adulthood.

Conclusions

Findings are discussed in the context of life span changes in social roles, normative personality development, and emotion regulation throughout adulthood.

Ancillary