Adult attachment style and partner choice: Correlational and experimental findings


  • The authors would like to acknowledge the helpful comments of Mark Attridge, Kathy Carnelley, Nancy Collins, Keith Davis, Susan Davis-Ah, Hussein Raj-put, and three anonymous reviewers on earlier drafts of this article.

Address correspondence to: Patricia A. Frazier, Department of Psychology, N218 Elliott Hall, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455. e-mail:


Three studies were conducted to assess the role of attachment style in partner selection using both correlational and experimental methods. Study 1 (n = 83 couples) assessed correlations between partner ratings on attachment-style dimensions and the relations between own and partner attachment style and relationship satisfaction. In Study 2 (n = 226) and Study 3 (n = 146), participants who varied in terms of attachment style rated the desirability of potential partners who also differed in terms of attachment style. Results of all three studies generally suggested that individuals were most attracted to partners with similar attachment styles. For example, anxious individuals tended to be dating anxious partners in Study 1, and they preferred anxious partners over secure and avoidant partners in Studies 2 and 3 (combined data). Thus, not all individuals preferred secure partners. Second, unlike previous studies that looked primarily at partner correlations, there was no evidence of anxious/avoidant matching. In fact, anxious individuals seemed particularly averse to avoidant partners. Finally, ratings of parental caregiving styles (especially ratings of mothers) were associated with adult attachment dimensions and partner choices. For example, individuals who rated their mothers as more cold and ambivalent were less attracted to secure partners. Clinical and research implications are discussed.