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CiteWeb id: 19870000031

CiteWeb score: 6236

This article explores the possibility that romantic love is an attachment process--a biosocial process by which affectional bonds are formed between adult lovers, just as affectional bonds are formed earlier in life between human infants and their parents. Key components of attachment theory, developed by Bowlby, Ainsworth, and others to explain the development of affectional bonds in infancy, were translated into terms appropriate to adult romantic love. The translation centered on the three major styles of attachment in infancy--secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent--and on the notion that continuity of relationship style is due in part to mental models (Bowlby's "inner working models") of self and social life. These models, and hence a person's attachment style, are seen as determined in part by childhood relationships with parents. Two questionnaire studies indicated that (a) relative prevalence of the three attachment styles is roughly the same in adulthood as in infancy, (b) the three kinds of adults differ predictably in the way they experience romantic love, and (c) attachment style is related in theoretically meaningful ways to mental models of self and social relationships and to relationship experiences with parents. Implications for theories of romantic love are discussed, as are measurement problems and other issues related to future tests of the attachment perspective. One of the landmarks of contemporary psychology is Bowlby's (1969, 1973, 1980) three-volume exploration of attachment, separation, and loss, the processes by which affectional bonds are forged and broken. Bowlby's major purpose was to describe and explain how infants become emotionally attached to their primary caregivers and emotionally distressed when separated from them, although he also contended that "attachment behavior [characterizes] human beings from the cradle to the grave" (1979, p. 129). In recent years, laboratory and naturalistic studies of infants and children (summarized by Bretherton, 1985, and Maccoby, 1980) have provided considerable support for attachment theory, which was proposed by Bowlby and elaborated by several other investigators. The purpose of this article is to explore the possibility that this theory, designed primarily with infants in mind, offers a valuable perspective on adult romantic love. We will suggest that romantic love is an attachment process (a process of becoming attached), We are grateful to Donna Bradshaw for sharing her expertise in the areas of attachment theory and research, to Marry Meitus for allowing us to conduct Study 1 in the

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