The pushes and pulls of close relationships: attachment insecurities and relational ambivalence

Author: Mikulincer, Mario; Shaver, Phillip R.; Bar-On, Naama; Ein-Dor, Tsachi

Description: Attachment theorists have emphasized that attachment-anxious individuals are ambivalent in their relational tendencies, wishing to be close to their relationship partners but also fearing rejection. Here we report 6 studies examining the contribution of attachment anxiety and experimentally induced relational contexts (both positive and negative) to explicit and implicit manifestations of (a) attitudinal ambivalence toward a romantic partner and (b) motivational ambivalence with respect to the goals of relational closeness and distance. Attachment-anxious individuals exhibited strong attitudinal ambivalence toward a romantic partner, assessed by both explicit and implicit measures. They also exhibited strong motivational ambivalence regarding closeness (both explicit and implicit), and this motivational conflict was intensified in relational contexts that encouraged either approach or avoidance tendencies. Participants who scored relatively high on avoidant attachment proved to be implicitly ambivalent about distance issues but mainly in negative relational contexts. Several alternative interpretations of the results were considered and ruled out.

Subject headings: Adolescent; Adult; Altruism; Anxiety Disorders, diagnosis, psychology; Female; Humans; Interpersonal Relations; Male; Motivation; Object Attachment; Psychological Theory; Young Adult; Relationships

Publication year: 2010

Journal or book title: Journal of personality and social psychology

Volume: 98

Issue: 3

Pages: 450-468

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Serial number: 3726

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