Attachment styles and interpersonal approach and avoidance goals in everyday couple interactions


  • I thank Gwen Mitchell for helping me enter the data. I presented data from this study at the 2007 meeting of the Society for Interpersonal Theory and Research.

Kenneth D. Locke, Department of Psychology, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, e-mail:


Sixty undergraduates at a public university in the northwest United States recorded their approach and avoidance communal (closeness), uncommunal (distance), agentic (assertion), and unagentic (submission) goals during a total of 836 naturalistic interactions with romantic partners. They also completed a self-report measure of attachment style. Secure attachment predicted more approach than avoidance goals, especially agentic goals. Avoidant attachment predicted goals to avoid and not to approach closeness and submission. Anxious attachment predicted more intense and inconsistent goals; for example, anxiety predicted focusing more on avoiding distance yet less on creating closeness and predicted more within-person variability across interactions in goals to approach distance, avoid closeness, avoid assertion, and avoid submission. In sum, the study revealed strong relationships between enduring attachment styles and momentary interpersonal goals in everyday life.