The composition of attachment networks throughout the adult years

Authors


should be addressed to Nicole A. Doherty or Judith A. Feeney, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia, 4072 e-mail: n.doherty@psy.uq.edu.au (NAD); j.feeney@psy.uq.edu.au (JAF).

Abstract

This study assessed the structure of adults' attachment networks, using a questionnaire measure of preferred attachment figures with a large sample of adults (N = 812) representing various ages and life situations. Two broad research questions were addressed. The first question concerned the variety of attachment figures reported by adults and the relative strength of attachment to each, including preferred (primary) attachment figures. The second question concerned the effects of normative life events on attachment networks and the nature of primary attachment figures in different life situations. Overall, the results supported the preeminent role of attachment relationships with romantic partners. However, relationships with mothers, fathers, siblings, children, and friends also met the strict criteria used to define full-blown attachments; further, each of these targets constituted the primary attachment figure for some participants. The structure of the attachment network was related to variables such as age, relationship status, and parental status, attesting to the important role of normative life events. The results have theoretical and applied significance and are related to principles of attachment, caregiving, and socioemotional selectivity.

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