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Psychology and Mental Health

Chicago, USA
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Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process

Author(s): Hazan C, Shaver P

Abstract

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 develoment 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.

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