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Testing the function of attachment hierarchies during emerging adulthood

Authors

  • ROBYN PITMAN,

    1. University of Guelph
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    • Robyn Pitman, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph; Elaine Scharfe, Department of Psychology, Trent University.

  • ELAINE SCHARFE

    Corresponding author
    1. Trent University
    Search for more papers by this author
    • Robyn Pitman, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph; Elaine Scharfe, Department of Psychology, Trent University.


  • This article is based, in part, on Robyn Pitman's master's thesis. We thank Scott Maitland for his statistical advice and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.

Elaine Scharfe, Department of Psychology, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, K9J 7B8, e-mail: escharfe@trentu.ca.

Abstract

J. Bowlby (1969/1997) suggested that one aspect of healthy development included the shift of attachment functions from parent to peer. This proposal was tested in a sample of undergraduates and results suggested that there was no advantage for individuals with a peer network compared to those with a family network. There was, however, a difference in attachment–distress associations between groups. Consistent with previous research, attachment anxiety was positively associated with distress for both groups. Although attachment avoidance was positively associated with distress for individuals with a predominantly family network, avoidance was not associated with distress for individuals with a predominantly peer network. Discussion highlights two interpretations for these findings, which focus on the importance that attachment may have on the experience of distress as well as current research findings exploring the attachment–distress relationship over time.

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