An Attachment Perspective on Relational Motives and Dynamics

 Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1973, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1988) has been extremely successful in stimulating research on the formation, maintenance, and quality of affectional bonds across the lifespan (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). In this lecture, we focus on how attachment-related processes are involved in a person’s relational motives, cognitions, emotions, and behaviors in close relationships, and on how such processes affect the dynamics and quality of a person’s relationships. We begin by presenting a theoretical model of the activation and psychodynamics of the attachment behavioral system in adulthood (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007).

The model explains the intrapsychic and interpersonal manifestations of the sense of attachment security, and of two insecurity-based regulatory strategies: hyperactivation and deactivation. Next, we show how individual differences in attachment-related feelings and defenses affect a person’s wishes, goals, and actions in close relationships in close relationships. We also review individual-difference studies showing how attachment orientations affect relationship quality, patterns of dyadic communication and interactions, and responses to relationship difficulties, conflicts, and breakups.

Goals of this first talk:

  • To explain the background and early form of Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment theory
  • To show how we have extended the theory to apply to adolescent and adult couple relationships
  • To discuss a range of empirical studies that operationalize key constructs in the theory (e.g., internal working models, attachment anxiety, avoidant attachment, ambivalence, behavioral systems, affect regulation, defenses) and test key hypotheses based on the theory
  • To provide a segue to the second talk, on clinical implications and applications

Presentation Phillip Shaver