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Test Your Romantic Relationship Attachment Style

Have you ever wondered how it is that you in particular bond during romantic relationships? It just so happens that this has been a topic of scientific research for over 30 years.  As a result, if you are willing to be honest, you can test yourself and get a pretty clear picture.  This post provides a link to a free psychological test where you can do just that, as well as some background information so that you may better understand your results.

Attachment Theory stems from the seminal work of John Bowlby, who began publishing papers on the subject in 1958 and developed the ideas into a full-blown model in the trilogy of books Attachment and Loss, with Volume I: Attachment being published in 1969, Volume II: Separation: Anxiety & Anger in 1972, and finally Volume III: Loss: Sadness & Depression becoming available in 1980.

Mary Ainsworth developed the Strange Situation Protocol to observe empirically infants behavior from 12 months to 20 months of age.  The protocol was usually carried out as follows:

Episode 1: Mother (or other familiar caregiver), Baby, Experimenter (30 seconds)
Episode 2: Mother, Baby (3 mins)
Episode 3: Mother, Baby, Stranger (3 mins or less)
Episode 4: Stranger, Baby (3 mins)
Episode 5: Mother, Baby (3 mins)
Episode 6: Baby Alone (3 mins or less)
Episode 7: Stranger, Baby (3 mins or less)
Episode 8: Mother, Baby (3 mins)

Though many observations were important in all "Episodes", the key observations are mostly obtained in Episode 5 and Episode 8 when how the infant responds to the caregiver's return provides the primary characteristics of their pattern of behavior in relation to their primary caregiver, usually their mother.  The classification system that resulted from these and further experiments are commonly referred to as Attachment Styles.

Infant Attachment Styles

There are 4 attachment styles:
  1. Secure Attachment
  2. Anxious-Resistant Insecure Attachment, also commonly called Ambivalent Attachment
  3. Anxious-Avoidant Insecure Attachment
  4. Disorganized/Disoriented Attachment
There are subcategories to each of these 4 styles; the following descriptions are just a summary.  Secure infants will readily explore the surroundings, interact with the stranger, get upset when the mother departs but are happy she returns.  Secure attachment develops when caregivers are readily available to the infants and are able to satisfy their needs in an optimal manner.  In contrast, anxious-resistant infants tend not to interact with the stranger even when their mother is present; upon her departure they often appear distressed, yet when she comes back they want to approach her but express anger or helplessness instead.  Anxious-resistant attachment results from parents that are unpredictable and respond inconsistently to the infant's needs.  Perhaps worse, infants develop an anxious-avoidant insecure attachment when their attempts at closeness are rejected and, furthermore, their needs are repeatedly unattended to; as a result, the infants learn that communication is useless and begin to camouflage their distress by seeming aloof and unresponsive.  Anxious-avoidant infants do not explore much, do not show anger when the mother leaves and either ignore her when she returns or simply turn away.

Disorganized/Disoriented attachment puzzled researchers at first, such that many subjects were improperly classified in the early experiments, until Mary Main added this fourth category once there was enough data to discern the pattern.  Infants with a disorganized attachment style display tense and jerky movements that attempt to contain crying, movements that stop when they do cry. Overwhelmed by fear, these infants' behavior is inconsistent, contradictory, and often display clear signs of psychological dissociation; nonetheless, about half of these infants still approach their caregivers without resistance or avoidance.  This disoriented attachment style may sometimes be the result of abuse, and in barely a majority of cases it stems from the mother having suffered trauma shortly before or after childbirth or having had a major loss (like the death of a parent) that they did not fully process, such that they became severely depressed.

Adult Relationship Attachment Styles

An individual's attachment style may change over the years depending on the quality of their experiences during development.  Although romantic relationships do not share many traits with caregiver-infant relationships, not only do romantic links involve many of the core tenets of earlier attachments, but also traces of those first attachments do tend to carry over into adulthood, remaining constant in many cases.

The adult romantic attachment styles are:
  1.   Secure
  2.   Anxious-Preoccupied
  3.   Dismissive-Avoidant
  4.   Fearful-Avoidant   

These four styles can be graphed by plotting them in a four quadrant chart with Anxiety as the X-axis and Avoidance as the Y-axis.  A secure style result, thus, looks like the image below.

Now that you have enough background information....

NOTE: Choose Survey B.

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