Individual, Family, and Community Education ETDs

Publication Date

9-26-2008

Abstract

This study investigated the relationships between adult attachment style, memories of early bonding experiences, and five different types of anxiety. The participants were 201 undergraduate psychology students, whose attachment styles, early bonding memories, and tendency toward the five anxiety types were measured through the use of self-report instruments. Analyses were performed to address the three research questions: 1) What is the relationship between attachment style and quality of early interactions with caregivers?; 2) What is the relationship between tendency toward specific types of anxiety and attachment style?; and 3) What is the relationship between tendency toward specific types of anxiety and quality of early interactions with caregivers? Significant correlations were found between early bonding memories and secure, preoccupied, and fearful attachment styles, but not between early bonding memories and dismissing attachment style. Secure attachment style was negatively correlated with every type of anxiety, whereas preoccupied and fearful attachment styles were positively correlated with every type of anxiety. Dismissing attachment style, however, was not correlated with any type of anxiety. Significant correlations also were evident between early bonding memories and two anxiety types (post-trauma and social). Several interpretations of the finding that dismissing attachment style is not correlated with early bonding memories or with any type of anxiety were considered. Individuals with a dismissing attachment style may have failed to report their unpleasant childhood memories and anxiety symptoms. The lack of correlation may indicate an avoidance of awareness, rather than an absence of symptoms and childhood memories. There also is the potential that a dismissing attachment style is genetically linked, and therefore shows no correlation with the early environment or with anxiety. Three treatment considerations were suggested based on the results of this study. First, it was advised that clinicians keep in mind the possible impact of both genetics and environment on the development and maintenance of anxiety. It also was recommended that knowledge of client attachment style be utilized to refine therapeutic techniques. Lastly, it was proposed that an understanding of early environment and attachment may allow for individualization of treatment through the use of combined modalities.

Keywords

attachment, bonding, relationship, anxiety, mental health, environment and genetics

Sponsors

This study was funded, in part, through the Research, Project, and Travel Grant, administered by the Office of Graduate Studies at the University of New Mexico.

Document Type

Dissertation

Language

English

Degree Name

Counselor Education

Level of Degree

Doctoral

Department Name

Individual, Family, and Community Education

First Advisor

Olguin, David

Second Advisor

Witherington, David

First Committee Member (Chair)

Coffield, Gene

Second Committee Member

Parkes, Jay

Included in

Education Commons

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