Social Psychology in the Public Interest
This way of thinking about attachment shows, again, the importance of both self-concern and other-concern in successful social interaction. People who cannot connect have difficulties being effective partners. But people who do not feel good about themselves also have challenges in relationships-self-concern goals must be met before we can successfully meet the goals of other-concern.
Because attachment styles have such an important influence on relationships, you should think carefully about your potential partner’s interactions with the other people in his or her life. The quality of the relationships that people have with their parents and close friends will predict the quality of their romantic relationships. But although they are very important, attachment styles do not predict everything. People have many experiences as adults, and these interactions can influence, both positively and negatively, their ability to develop close relationships (Baldwin & Fehr, hinge vs bumble 1995; Scharfe & Bartholomew, 1994). There is also some diversity in the distribution of attachment styles across different groups. For example, in a multicultural sample including people from over 50 different countries of origin, Agishtein and Brumb) found that attachment style varied as a function of ethnicity, religion, individualism-collectivism, and acculturation. For instance, anxious attachment was found to be significantly higher in those whose countries of origin were in East Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, compared with those from nations in South America, the Caribbean, North America, Western Europe, and South Asia. These types of findings clearly remind us of the need to consider cultural diversity when we are reviewing the research on attachment. They also raise the interesting possibility that some types of attachment may be more normative and adaptive in some cultures than others.
As well as showing some cross-cultural diversity, attachment styles within individuals may be more diverse over time and across situations than previously thought. For instance, people’s attachment styles in particular relationships, for example those with their mothers, brothers, and partners, although often correlated, can also be somewhat distinct (Pierce & Lydon, 2001; Ross & Spinner, 2001). As well as showing this variability across relationships, attachment styles can also shift over time and with changing relationship experiences. For example, there are some age-related trends in attachment, with younger adults higher in anxious attachment than middle-aged and older adults, and middle-aged adults higher in avoidant attachment than the other two groups (Chopik, Edelstein, & Fralay, 2013). In regards to changing experiences, people with an anxious style who find a very trusting and nurturing romantic relationship may, over time, come to feel better about themselves and their own needs, and shift toward a more secure style (Davila & Cobb, 2003). These findings have many potential psychotherapeutic settings. For example, couples who are attending therapy to address relationship issues can benefit from this process in part by developing more secure attachments to each other (Solomon, 2009). Therapists can also try to help their clients to develop a more secure attachment style, by creating a trusting and supportive relationship with them (Obegi, 2008).
As we saw in the chapter on Self, many of us are spending more time than ever connecting with others electronically. Online close relationships are also becoming more popular. But you might wonder whether meeting and interacting with others online can create the same sense of closeness and caring that we experience through face-to-face encounters. And you might wonder whether people who spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet might end up finding less time to engage in activities with the friends and loved ones who are physically close by (Kraut et al., 1998).