Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Jennifer Waltz


Attachment behavior., Emotions., Couples Research., Stress (Psychology), Interpersonal communication., Communication in marriage.


University of Montana


Attachment theory, originally postulated by John Bowlby and further developed by Mary Ainsworth and colleagues, has recently been proposed as an organizational framework for the study o f close relationships in adults (Hazan & Shaver, 1994). A central aspect of attachment is the regulation o f emotional distress within a close relationship. This usually involves seeking the support of a close relationship partner. However, little research has focused on what types of emotion regulation behaviors are Attachment theory, originally postulated by John Bowlby and further developed by preferred by adults having different attachment styles. The present study attempted to elucidate whether attachment styles in adults in long term relationships are associated with preference for different types of support from their relationship partners in regulating difficult emotions (sadness, anger, anxiety). It also focused on whether attachment style was related to satisfaction with one’s partner’s emotion regulation behaviors in response to one’s emotional distress. For example, persons with secure attachment styles were expected to be more satisfied with their partner’s responses to their emotional distress than were persons with insecure attachment styles.

In the present study, individuals with secure and insecure attachment styles showed differences in emotion regulation preferences. Persons with a dismissing style of insecure attachment preferred less cognitive and socially supportive type emotion regulation behaviors from their partners, than did persons with secure or any of the other insecure attachment styles. Also, couples in which both partners were secure preferred more problem-solving emotion regulation behaviors, while couples in which both partners were insecure preferred to ignore emotion-related distress. A difference in satisfaction with a partner’s emotion regulation behaviors was found only for socially supportive type behaviors. Individuals with secure attachment were more satisfied with these types of behaviors from their partners than were individuals with a dismissing attachment style.

In previous studies, persons with secure attachment styles have been found to be more satisfied with their relationship overall. However, partners with insecure attachment styles, who may be either anxious or avoidant about depending on their partners for assistance with regulating distressful feelings, are generally less satisfied with their relationship overall. This study replicated this association between general relationship satisfaction and romantic attachment style, in individuals and in couples.



© Copyright 1999 Edith A. Myers