Exploring the role of secondary attachment relationships in the development of attachment security.

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The process by which earned-secures achieve attachment security in adulthood, despite having insecure parent-child relationships in childhood, was the focus of the current study. As internal working models are thought to be formed within relationships, specifically primary attachment bonds (Bowlby, 1969), it was postulated that secondary attachment relationships, specifically those that were positive, had the capacity to revise insecure models of self and other. In the current study, the secondary attachment histories of undergraduates who were earned-secure and continuously-insecure, or insecurely attached since childhood, were compared. A new measure of secondary attachment quality was developed (Questionnaire About Secondary Attachment Figures ... continued below

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Cohen, Diane L. August 2005.

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  • Cohen, Diane L.

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The process by which earned-secures achieve attachment security in adulthood, despite having insecure parent-child relationships in childhood, was the focus of the current study. As internal working models are thought to be formed within relationships, specifically primary attachment bonds (Bowlby, 1969), it was postulated that secondary attachment relationships, specifically those that were positive, had the capacity to revise insecure models of self and other. In the current study, the secondary attachment histories of undergraduates who were earned-secure and continuously-insecure, or insecurely attached since childhood, were compared. A new measure of secondary attachment quality was developed (Questionnaire About Secondary Attachment Figures (Q-SAF)), which was used to measure undergraduates' perceptions of their past and current secondary attachment figures. Findings indicated that in comparison to continuous-insecures, earned-secures perceived their negative secondary attachment figures in adolescence as less mean. Earned-secures also reported being less dependent upon these figures' approval of them for their self-worth and more secure within these relationships. In adulthood, earned-secures reported more trust and intimacy with their positive secondary attachment figures. Compared to continuous-insecures, earned-secures described their peers as being more empathic and altruistic during childhood and more warm during adolescence; earned-secures also reported less dependency and greater closeness with their peers throughout development. Grandparents were listed the most frequently by earned-secures as positive secondary attachment figures during childhood and this number was more than double that for continuous-insecures. Further, earned-secures described their grandparents in childhood as being more altruistic and they reported being less concerned with receiving their acceptance. Siblings from childhood were described by earned-secures as being more empathic than those of continuous-insecures, yet earned-secures also reported greater dismissing attachment to their siblings and cousins in childhood. Significant others from adolescence were rated by earned-secures as being less mean than those of continuous-insecures and earned-secures reported being more securely attached to these relationships in both adolescence and adulthood. Implications of the current study and directions for future research are presented.

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  • August 2005

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  • Feb. 15, 2008, 4:16 p.m.

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  • Feb. 29, 2008, 10:25 a.m.

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Cohen, Diane L. Exploring the role of secondary attachment relationships in the development of attachment security., dissertation, August 2005; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4891/: accessed November 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .