Genetic and environmental influences on adult attachment styles


  • This research, based on the master's thesis of M. J. Brussoni and conducted under the co-supervision of T. M. MacBeth and K. L. Jang, was partially supported by a fellowship from the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation to K. L. Jang and grant MA9424 from the Medical Research Council of Canada to W. J. Livesley. The authors would like to thank Kim Bartholomew, Dan Perlman, and Elaine Scharfe for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Address correspondence to Kerry Jang, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, 2255 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 2A1, Canada.


The heritability of adult attachment styles as measured by the Relationship Scales Questionnaire (RSQ) was estimated on data from a volunteer general population sample of 220 adult twin pairs (116 monozygotic pairs. 104 dizygotic pairs). Additive genetic effects accounted for 37%, 43%, and 25% of the variance in the secure, fearful, and preoccupied adult attachment styles, respectively, but none of the variance in the dismissing style. Nonshared environmental influences accounted for the majority of the variance in all styles: 63% secure, 57% fearful, 75% preoccupied, and 71% dismissing. Shared environmental effects were negligible for all styles except dismissing (29%).