Shaver and colleagues developed romantic attachment theories on Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment infant-parent attachment theories (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). Adult romantic relationships parallel childhood attachment patterns. Although the Hazan and Shave (1987) study found approximately half of their participants had secure attachment recollections, one fourth had avoidance and one fourth anxious ambivalent, I wonder if those numbers would be accurate today.
One of my dearest friends comes from a family of three. She is the middle child. She has an older brother and a younger brother. Their parents divorced while they were very young. Their father pursued a fulfilling long-term relationship with another woman and has remained lovingly married for the last 40 years. However, the father was not expected, nor was he especially expressive with affection or support. Their mother, on the other hand, experienced numerous short-term relationships often exposing the children to one night love affairs. Her behavior and child rearing style was harsh, aggressive, strict, and inconsistently caring.
As a result, all three children have evidenced romantic attachment issues. The oldest son, Anthony, has never married. He developed an eating disorder in his youth. He prefers his solitude and spends his time immersed in work. His behavior would be characterized by the avoidant romantic attachment type. The youngest son, Eric, was clearly favored by the mother. However, he developed an anxious-ambivalent romantic attachment style. I attended his wedding to his on-again, off-again girlfriend, my friend Roseanne, 15 years ago on the Fourth of July. Although they divorced two years later, they continue to see each other on again, off again. Eric’s insecurities cause him to seek the relationship because he seems to truly love Roseanne, but he cannot maintain the trust and commitment in the relationship without becoming excessively insecure and breaking it off again. Roseanne, on the other hand, desperate to be with him, continues to wait. Finally, my friend, Sunny, can also be characterized as ambivalent-avoidant. She has been married twice. She has been single for numerous years now, but that seems to be due to a combination of seeming desperation and overly long list of unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should look like.
I care for my friends deeply. I am hopeful that one day they can find the help they need or learn the lessons required to achieve a fulfilling successful relationship.
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes, 52(3), 511-524. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/52/3/511/